Last Sunday evening we watched a fascinating DVD of Erwin McManus speaking at a conference at Mosaic from a couple of years ago.
As part of the talk Erwin got everyone to write down on a piece of paper what their favourite colour was. Why not do that right now, or at least think what your answer would be. He then got everyone into groups of 4 or 5 and asked each group, based on their individual preferences, to decide what the group colour was going to be. In my group we had 4 of us, 2 blues, a yellow (me) and a green, so our group colour was blue. He then called out colours and asked each group with that colour to stand up. He finished with blue, at which point nearly every group stood up.
What happens is that although there were lots of different colours, the dominant ones tend to take over, and so yellow people and red people and pink people and green people are forced to be blue.
Erwin was arguing that the same thing happens in church life, except that our colour preference is replaced with our willingness to change. Some of you may be familiar with this diagram which shows how open people are to adopting new ideas.
This article explains it in more detail but the basic idea is that when something new is proposed only a very small percentage of people (the innovators) will be willing to jump straight in and give it a go. Once they've done that, and demonstrated some level of success, then a larger number of early adopters will also get on board. Once the new idea has taken hold in this group, and begins to demonstrate real benefit then the early majority will be willing to sign up. Much later will come the late majority, who will resist the change for as long as they can until it becomes inevitable, and finally the laggards who fit that old joke "How many baptist ministers does it take to change a light bulb ---- change, who said anything about change!".
You can think of anything new in these terms, just think of the adoption of the mobile phone which now even the laggards are beginning to admit may be of some limited use.
Most churches are made up of early and late majority people, which means that even where there are yellow innovators, they get swamped out by the blue majority. That's why churches can be very resistant to change and very stuck in doing things the way we've always done them.
So where am I going with all this?
First of all to perhaps help you understand me as a leader a bit better. I'm a yellow innovator / early adopter. That's why I've nearly always worked for small start up companies, and why as a leaders I'll always be encouraging us to try new things, even if there's no absolute guarantee that they're going to work. I think that's often how God's kingdom moves forward - think Jonathan and his armour bearer or Joshua and Caleb out of the 12 spies - there were some top late adopters in those other 10 spies! But there are some dangers in being an innovator, and that's why it's so exciting and reassuring to have lots of wise heads around me who keep all of this rooted. That also makes me so grateful for people around me with the gifts of wisdom and administration and a whole load of other things who can take ideas and turn them into reality (just think of team of people like Ruth Buxton, Colin Boyle and Scott Allen who turned the dream of Hope08 into a reality).
Secondly to say that our history as a church is a history of being a bunch of innovators and early adopters. Ditching democracy for a leader lead church, building The Kerith Centre when building big buildings was thought to be madness, gathering one large church when the perceived wisdom was to split into multiple congregations and many others. So if there's anyone to blame for us being a risk taking bunch it's Ben, not me!
Thirdly to encourage all of us to embrace change as part of our future. As the church in our nation if we aren't willing to change and adapt we will die. Sometimes as we change there will almost certainly be things we get wrong or overlook. At those moments choose to be part of the solution, and think "what could I do to fix this?", rather than just being part of the problem (if you know what I mean, with my most pastoral of pastoral hats on!). This will be particularly true as we transition to our three meetings from January next year. We'll probably get most of it right but never all of it.
And finally to say that we are never to be a church with one dreamer and many workers, but a church with many dreamers. The prophet Joel says of the coming age of the Spirit that "your old me will dream dreams". Let's all be risk takers, working out the dreams God has placed in our hearts.