Outreach Magazine is putting together their list of Innovative Churches. And while it would be flattering to pastor a church that was nominated to be a part of this list, it does raise at least one question, "What the heck does ‘innovative" mean?"
Labels suck! I use them with reckless abandon and sometimes I even like them when tossed my way, but as we know, for the most part labels are "T" trouble. We all know that in the end labels are just hallow and empty attempts to describe divine complexity in a way that our puny little brains can grasp, but will never fully comprehend . . . yada yada yada.
Yeah . . . I know this, but as a "church plant guy" it does feel good to be given some labels: "cutting edge," "creative" "emergent" and yes, even "innovative" . . . all make me puff up a bit . . . bad pastor. Add on words like, "compassionate," "pastoral," "strategic" and/or "compelling" and my head blows up like a Macy’s thanksgiving day balloon. Fortunately, those complements are few and far between and most of the labels given to me have to do with my stature and/or my gravitation towards all things social networking and shiny.
Now most of the time, labels are just goofy and ways that MEN can engage in the primeval practice of chest-thumping and rounds of the ever popular emergent game, "Look at me, I am edgier than you!" the worst though is when folks get so caught up in wanting to be labeled as something, they have to tell you AND their ministry is driven by the pursuit of the latest and greatest label.
Come in close fellow folks who are fed by people’s impressions of you. Yeah, you in the back row too. Here is something to remember. If you have to say you are "Creative" "Innovative" and/or "Edgy" most likely you are not any of those things and more likely a poser at whatever you are hoping to attain. Sorry.
I think the key to dealing with labels that are inevitable parts of church leadership is that OTHERS must affirm what you do and who you are AND one cannot believe and be driven their own hype. Ultimately we must each embrace our selves as uniquely created children of God and never be driven by human labels that others may want, with good intentions, put upon us. A solid understanding of our divine AND broken nature will help each of us to grow into who God wants us to be: innovative, nurturing, pastoral, etc. And when we do that, whatever labels are put upon us can act as one more way that we can discern the health of the directions we are headed.
So simple, yet so hard . . . and quite possibly innovative 😉