2 Reasons We're Afraid to Experiment in our Churches

Experimenting isn’t a word that gets used much in church circles. It’s more of a scientific word. It’s tends to be used in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, medical research, etc.

But it’s not a word you hear used much in the world of ministry, mission, and theology.

Photo by Alex E. Proimos (Creative Commons)Photo by Alex E. Proimos (Creative Commons)But I think it’s a word we need to adopt. It’s a word that needs to become a part of our everyday vocabulary.

Why don’t we experiment?

I think there are two reasons why we don’t experiment more when it comes to ministry and mission.

1. A magical mindset. We think God will magically reveal to us the ministry or program that will succeed. God will give us a vision of a new program for kids or youth or the homeless. God will inspire us with an idea or concept that, when we implement it, can’t fail because—well—it came from God.

I think God does that kind of thing sometimes. But most of the time we just need to try something until we find the thing that will work.

2. Fear. We’re afraid to fail. We’re afraid to fail because we don’t want to look bad. We want to look like we know what we’re doing. We want to look like we’ve got that direct line to God that God uses to inform us of exactly what we should be doing. We’re afraid that if our idea fails, people will think we don’t know what we’re doing or we’re not as connected to God as they thought.

We need to get away from both of those—the magical mindset and fear. We need to believe that when we begin to try things out, God will begin to give us clarity.

God will say, “That was a good try, but you need to tweak it a bit.” Or, “That was way off, but at least now you know.” Or, “Hey, great idea! Exactly what I was thinking! Let’s make this happen!”

You never know. But you have to try.

10,001 Failed Worshiping Communities

In my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), we have a “big hairy audacious goal” of starting 1001 new worshiping communities in the next few years.

I like that goal. It would be great to start 1001 new worshiping communities in our denomination. And I like that the goal doesn’t state that these need to be official churches. There’s an experimental element to this goal.

But I agree with something Tod Bolsinger said to me not too long ago. He said our goal needs to be, not 1001 new worshiping communities—but 10,001 failed worshiping communities.

Why 10,001 failures?

Because it changes our mindset. It reduces our fear. It says, “Try something. If it works, great! If not, try something else.”

We need to experiment more

We need to try more stuff in our churches. It’s in trying stuff out that we’ll begin to discern the answers to those two key missional questions: What is God up to? And how can we join God in what God is doing?


Start experimenting. Start failing at stuff. And eventually you’ll find something that makes a real difference in the world and for the Kingdom of God.

What kinds of experiments have you tried in your church?  Have any of them worked?  Have any of them failed?

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