Replication is not Innovation

Ben Arment is chewing around the edges of the issue of innovative churches.  Earlier this week I was talking with one of the church planters in our Association, and he was talking about planting a “simple church,” and we talked about that paradigm of planting.

Reflecting on these two events, and recalling the host of books I’ve seen which talked about how to build/grow a church, I’ve come to a simple conclusion.

Replication is not Innovation

  If you can replicate what someone else is doing somewhere else where you are, then you’re not doing innovation.

My son received the Lego magazine in the mail this past week. In the beginning, all you could get was a box of various Legos. Over time, they diversified their product line, and introduced various kits so that you could make various specialized Lego products.

As I looked through it I was reflecting on this Lego metaphor for the Church.

When Joshua started out, we bought a set of Legos. Over time, family and friends gave him more Legos for his birthday, for Christmas, etc.  Sometimes they were generic Lego bricks. Sometimes they were specialized sets (like the Bionicle sets, etc.).

We would work  diligently to put the kit together to produce the particular character or item. But after a few days, it would be more fun to take it apart and re-combine the various parts into something new.  Indeed, over time and with the introduction of many different “specialized” sets, we had tubs and tubs of various Lego parts which got recombined over and over again in new and creative ways.
This is innovation.

Simply assembling the parts you buy in a can is not innovation. And buying a can of church at a conference and taking it back home and assembling the various parts of it there is not being innovative.

That’s a great way to build a model. It’s a great way to replicate what someone else is doing. It’s a great way to ride on the coattails of someone elses’ success. And its a great way to miss what God wants do to where you are.

It’s also a lousy paradigm for building a church. Which church originally came from the manufacturer with exactly the right pieces, the right number of pieces, and the right sizes?  None that I’ve ever been affiliated with or heard of.

So, do we replicate or do we innovate?

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