Everything is an Experiment

One of our core values at National Community Church is everything is an experiment. Let me try to unpack it.

We believe that there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet.  Our theology doesn’t change, but our methodology does.  Have you ever noticed that there is no “order of service” in Scripture.  Why?  Because it would stifle creativity.  Yes, there are traditions and ordinances that every true church adheres too!  But every church has a unique churchprint.  And I believe we need lots of different kinds of churches because there are lots of different kinds of people!  The one common denominator is the gospel.

One of the great dangers of leadership is that at some point you can accumulate so much “know how” that you stop leading out of imagination and start leading out of memory. That’s when you stop creating the future and start repeating the past.  That’s the day you stop living and start dying.

There is a concept in the realm of science called critical realism.  Think of it as scientific humility. It’s the recognition that every theory is amendable because new discoveries are bound to be made.  Now, please don’t misunderstand.  I believe the canon of Scripture is closed. I believe it is the inspired Word of God.  I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  And I am a sinner saved by grace.  Those truths are eternal and unchangeable.  But systematic theology is an oxymoron.  Too often it’s our attempt to control God by reducing Him to measurable and manageable terms. The moment you think you have God all figured out, you’ve created an idol.  He doesn’t fit within the tiny confines of our logical left-brains!  Yes, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  But God is also predictably unpredictable! He works in strange and mysterious ways.

My advice? Stay Humble. Stay Hungry.

I love the old axiom: live as if you’ll die tomorrow, but learn as if you will live forever! Living experimentally is simply learning as much as you can about as much as you can. You are always learning.  You are open to new ideas.  You are open to new experiences.  In the words of Albert Einstein, “Never lose a holy curiosity.”

Eight times the Psalmist says, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” I can’t remember the original citation, but I remember reading a study once that suggested that we stop thinking about the lyrics of a song after we’ve sung it thirty times.  That’s why we need to write new music.  Every new song is a musical experiment.  For what it’s worth, check out some of our NCC originals.

When we went multi-site, it was an experiment. Our cafe in Berlin is an experiment. So was our coffeehouse. So was the first series trailer we produced.  So is our free market system of small groups.  So is our staff structure. So is everything we tried for the first time!

I’m more afraid of missing opportunities than making mistakes. We need the freedom to fail.  In fact, if you haven’t failed lately it’s probably because you aren’t trying anything new!  I believe that experimentation is an expression of faith. It’s believing that there is a new way, a better way of doing something.  It’s striving toward excellence, which honors God.  And it’s giving expression to the infinitely creative Spirit that dwells within us and sanctifies our imaginative right-brains!

Everything is an experiment.

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Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church (www.theaterchurch.com) in Washington, DC. One church with seven locations, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations. The vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the DC area. NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. Mark has two Masters Degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of the best-selling books: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Wild Goose Chase, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, and Soulprint. Mark is married to Lora and they live on Capitol Hill with their three children: Parker, Summer, and Josiah.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

Lauren — 02/15/13 10:10 am

Mark - unbelievable stuff here. Thanks for the kind and encouraging words. We've wrestled with this is a bit as church planters in Chicago...believing God is giving us vision for "doing" church a little differently in our context. So often, though, we feel the pressure to just start "leading out of memory" as you suggest, and each time we do God reminds us of the specific vision and calling He has laid on our hearts for the "different kind of church" He wants us to be. Thankfully in church planting there is a lot of room to work this stuff out - so thanks for the compelling call toward continual experiment. We needed to hear this today! Love to be reminded of God's sovereignty in moments like these. Thanks for your faithfulness in committing to these words, blessings to you.

David Ellington — 02/15/13 7:59 am

Thank you Mark for this reminder to stay fresh, have faith, trust God and as Ms Frizzle of Magic School Bus says, "Get messy!"

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
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