Three years ago I learned of a phrase that has changed the way I approach church—traditioned innovation. It means this: Taking the best of what was to define and help inform the future. In other words, our institutional memory bears within it the resources and hope for the future. I will break it down in more detail.
First, “traditioned.” It does not mean “tradition” or “traditional.” It, rather, is intentionally past tense to signify those things that have gotten us to where we are. It is not making a declarative statement about what should stay in the present; but, rather, it is showcasing that which was successful.
By putting it in past tense, it also allows for the letting go of what was. Just because something worked in the past does not mean it should remain a staple today (nor does it mean it should be changed for having age). “Traditioned” simply holds up those things worth remembering so it can inform the future.
As Senior Pastor, I am not interested in a future void of our heritage or ways of being. I am not looking to change our identity, routine, or worship styles for the sake of changing them. I want to hear our history, understand our cultural milieu, and meet each and every person who calls FBC their church home. I cannot effectively manage our staff or lead our congregation if I do not have a clear understanding of where we have been.
I, therefore, am dedicating time each day in the office to call church members (if you are reading this, I will likely be calling you soon). My hope is to hear how you got connected to FBC and what you feel has been life-giving to you. I look forward to hearing your stories.
Secondly, “Innovation.” It signifies the need to adapt to the changing times. It also means “acting on” or “building towards” something together. Organizations have to innovate. They have to harness resources and project towards a vision by setting manageable, trackable goals. If they do not, energy is lost and people stop participating.
This is why I will be spending the next several weeks analyzing our goals thinking through how our current rituals and rhythms support those goals. I will be spending time with each Team and Committee to better understand how our current structure can help move us into the future (by the way, I believe it most certainly can!).
Innovation, though, is not a one-person job. It takes all of us buying in to a compelling vision and moving together. Without clear leadership, the voices casting the vision get muddled, the administrative needs go unmet and production falls short. Either that or the goals are set too low and it is not worth people’s time to stay connected.
As Senior Pastor, I am interested in innovating towards a vision that connects to God’s dreams. We have to be a church that seeks to bring heaven to earth for people. It is not enough to stand on the sidelines of faith placating a theology about justice if we are unwilling to serve. It is not enough to break bread together if we are unwilling to feed the poor. It is not enough to be intelligent about scripture if we do not allow it to form our spirit.
Traditioned Innovation only succeeds long-term if it offers creative and refreshing opportunities to point others towards the reign of God. So be willing to share your stories when I call, and start thinking about what God’s dreams are for us at FBC.
We are creating something together, and it will take all of us to do it!
This article was written for and published by First Baptist for its September Soundings issue.