Steps Out of Stagnation – Step 3: Experiment!
By Lynn Hardaway
Now that you have an idea of what God wants you to focus on during this Transformational Cycle, you will want to accumulate fresh ideas to see it happen. Sometimes an idea will come to you during your quiet time alone with the Father, or it might be while you are reading a magazine like Outreach magazine, you might hear of an idea another church has used successfully, or read about it in an article on the internet. Whatever the sources, you should be ready to lead the church to experiment with the most compelling ideas.
Be sure to tell them that not every idea will work, but some will work. They should not take “failures” too seriously, nor should they let these discourage them from trying something else. It is just part of the learning experience to help you get to the next step; insights. When applied, those insights will result in confirmations (results; i.e., people attending your church). But none of that happens without your willingness to step out in faith and try some new ideas.
Be forewarned: it is at this stage you will receive your worst criticisms from people who resist change. Their motives vary, but they are comfortable with the status quo, and experimentation feels like a threat to how they see their faith. You will hear the worn phrase, “We have never done it this way before.” Or, “We tried this in 1979 and it did not work.” I think most critics mean well, but their short-sightedness often comes across as, well, mean.
Build consensus among the leaders and influencers, keep the church informed of what is going to happen and why, but try something new and different, something daring, something fresh. Even if the idea brings in one person, it has succeeded.
One idea that worked during this step of the Cycle while I was at Central Baptist Church in Norfolk produced some surprising results. The vision was to get more members of the Ghent community attending the church, since most of the members drove considerable distances to the church. The DaVinci Code was hugely popular among movie goers, but churches were telling their people not to go see it. We got the word out in the community, through our sign, that we were giving free tickets to see the movie with one caveat: the movie attenders would agree to meet with us in the food court afterwards to discuss what they had seen. A local television news crew, intrigued by the offer of free tickets, came out and interviewed me for that evening’s news. Two young university students, Nabeel Qureshi and David Wood, who were members of Central, met with the group and presented a defense of the faith and an invitation to visit the church the following Sunday. Two couples accepted Christ and joined Central as a result – a circuit court judge and his wife and a retired fleet commander and his wife.
The amazing people of Central did not criticize the idea, and even gave the money to buy the tickets!
The idea easily could have failed, but instead, four precious souls (and influential leaders) came to Christ.