Thursday, October 6, 2005

Fragments of Postmodern Liturgy III

Innovation + Nativity

What does it mean to create? To give birth to new life? To explore the attraction between knowledge and creativity? These are the questions I want to ask myself all of the time. When I create, then I feel most like I am made in the image[1] of my Creator, because I am a smaller, less important Him. Creativity is a birth – a nativity – an incarnation of something new that will bring keeps things moving forwards, prohibits them from sliding back and repels stagnation. Innovation, on the other hand, “is creativity implemented[2]” and imagination “is the number one tool for creativity and innovation.[3]

When I look at my own church today, many of the lackluster events and sad experiences we share are due to a lack of innativity: there is no new birth, no incarnation, and we are certainly not applying creativity to the knowledge that we could be doing a better job of communicating truth. In short, we are doing many of the same things the same way because the freedom has not been given to evolve. In our overall context repetition is “equated with important, but disconnected from excellence.[4]

Now to be fair, I should say that certain creative liberties are given within controlled constructs, but they are governed rigidly and are generally unwelcome among the adult population of our local church. As a result, our college students are liberated to publish monthly interactive cd roms, do evangelistic theatre on the roof of our church and broadcast it via fm radio, and run adventurous fundraising campaigns like photography exhibits and media drives. But the overall congregation stagnates with a liturgy of four choruses, the offering, some announcements, and a thirty-minute sermon.

Yet my frustration with the absence of innativity does not end liturgical design, but extends to its absence in a positive reimagining of the world. I believe we are equipped to “fund a counterimagination of the world,[5]” as Walter Brueggman put it; to tell the world that there is another alternative to greed, despair, and spiritual amnesia. We ought to be innative in the way we do church, but also in the way we recreate the world for nonbelievers so they can see heaven before any of us get there. We ought to show them that the present tense is diseased and that we, the church, have something to say about an alternative to what appears on the news and in nightmares.

[The bible] speaks of a self open to obedience [Psalm 119], satisfied with goodness and mercy [Psalm 23.6], and reclothed in holiness and righteousness [Colossians 3.5-17]. [The bible] asserts a world that stands safely under God’s good promise [Genesis 9.8-17]. [The bible] imagines a church fully cared for and not orphaned [Isaiah 54.7-10].[6]

And this amazing capacity for innativity is not something we simply supply for those in need, but something within which we invite their participation. “One of the core ideas of innovation,” says Edwin Schlossberg, author of Interactive Excellence “is that the inventor [read evangelist] does not really work in isolation but must work with others to solve problems and create.[7]” This truly echoes the sentiments of Jesus in the gospel of John when He tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches, that when the relationship is “intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.”[8]

God has planted something in us, let’s allow it to grow. Let’s try something new all of the time. Try changes in worship - try hip-hop worship, try worship without music, try worship in the pitch dark, try contemplative and meditative practices, try lecio-divina, try something that hasn’t even been invented yet. Don’t look to the mega church down the street for something to copy,[9] don’t copy Dan Kimball, U2 or Billy Graham. Create. Innovate. Find the seed of God’s own DNA inside you that will prompt you to bring something new to life.

[1] Cf. Genesis 1.26ff. See also Strong’s #06754, tselem meaning “to shade” or “mere, empty, image, semblance.” Perhaps creativity, in imitation of who I understand God to be, fills me up
[2] Jeffrey Baumgartener, Imagination: the number one tool for creativity and innovation.

[3] Ibid.
[4] Edwin Schlossberg, Interactive Excellence p.85
[5] Walter Brueggman, Texts Under Negotiation: The Bible and Postmodern Imagination, p.20
[6] Ibid, p.54
[7] Edwin Schlossberg, Interactive Excellence p.79
[8] John 15.5
[9] I don’t mean to suggest that borrowing ideas is necessarily bad, so much as the tendency of smaller churches to try and imitate big ones in hopes of becoming…important somehow

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