Before I get to the point of this post, I need to say what it isn't about. It isn't about the fulfillment of the cultural mandate, to subdue and have dominion. God created. Made in God's image, man is creative in a way designed by God, albeit different than Him. Man does innovate. Scripture doesn't forbid invention. It encourages it. The industrial revolution emerged from a biblical point of view. George Washington Carver was right to find exponential uses for the peanut.
Furthermore, I grant that even in ministry we use paper and bindings and typewriters. The words are written between staffs of musical notation for singing. These are all circumstances for obedience to the Bible, not actual teachings of the Bible. In addition, people will write new tunes used for praise to God, so that's not what I'm writing about. You should not use these as arguments to justify all forms of novelty, to drive through that void your Mack truck of innovation. This isn't even hard to understand; yet these are utilized to blur the lines, so people feel justified in doing what they want to do, and then blame it on God.
Innovation has become such the norm in churches, that when you point it out to people, they act like you are criticizing scripture. Many get very defensive, as if you are attacking one of their convictions. As you read here, I ask you to pack away your defensiveness and open your mind to what I'm writing. The inability even to admit you might be wrong here might be a bigger problem than the problem I'm addressing. You can still grow, reader.
Scripture Is Complete
The plan for doing the work of God is complete in scripture. The explanation for the Lord's work was finished with the culmination of the twenty-seventh book of the New Testament in circa AD96. We know everything we need to know and can know to do God's work.
This essay in part dovetails with my recent writing about continuationism. Men credit a new method as revelation from God. They reach a barrier blocking evangelistic success and the apparent solution arrives through innovation ascribed to divine illumination. They couldn't find a way through until the idea "came from God." Whole manuals unveil page after page of secrets.
To use a football analogy, the plan in the New Testament is run after run by the fullback right up the middle. What is being offered instead is a gadget play to win the game in one play, perhaps a literal "Hail Mary." A run by the fullback isn't fooling anybody. Everybody knows what is happening. Now no one expects it to win, because it's too obvious. It looks like a loser. The thought is that a new scheme is needed that use a kind of sleight of hand, a little craftiness to score a lot points and ensure victory. Credit goes to the coordinator.
The Apostle Paul took a beating because he kept just running the ball up the middle -- ground and pound. There was no doubt he had the ball every time, so every would-be tackler could take his shot at him. Despite the opposition, he didn't change his strategy. He suffered for it and was following in the example of Jesus in doing it.
God wants His churches to like what He said. He wants them to believe what He said. He wants them to believe that His plan is working, even when it doesn't look like it is working. That is really believing in it.
Almost inherent to evangelicals and fundamentalists for many decades now has been regular, almost non-stop, new concoctions for numerical success. From my perspective, this tendency hasn't escaped unaffiliated Baptists either. I would say that I understand the lure of innovation for God's work, except we are now to the point where we also have seen transpire, repeated over several generations --- nothing new under the sun. But that shouldn't even matter. We have a biblical basis for rejecting it.
What is the work of God? It is preaching, what Paul calls the "foolishness of preaching." Every believer is supposed to preach the gospel. The audience is every creature. There are ways that people can ruin the preaching, but there isn't anything to add to the method. Preaching is the means by which God is glorified.
What I hear and read is that preaching doesn't work. The lost hear preaching and they don't like it. When preaching doesn't work, people then get discouraged. They quit. Because they quit, they aren't preaching anymore. The work of God isn't getting done. Not doing anything can't be right. This convoluted reasoning represents the wrong thinking.
Actually what is said, however, is that preaching is fine. It's good. Keep doing that. Of course. However, if you want to succeed, you can't do just that. It's not enough. Sure, it's good to continue to be faithful with the preaching. Your just going to need to bring some gadgets to your game plan. You won't win if you don't.
To diagnose the two paragraphs above and the real problem, preaching does work, even if we don't see the immediate results we want. The people who stop are faithless. They haven't been taught the proper motivation for work for God. They gave up because they didn't love keeping God's commandments. They weren't loving God. They need to get biblical motivation, so they won't quit. They need to be buoyed in their faith. They should be encouraged and then encourage one another. Men should pray their love will abound. Faithful men should provide good examples of not quitting. They shouldn't make excuses for their people, like I hear from church leaders today.
Preaching Is Sufficient
There is a reason we just preach. Preaching doesn't make sense as a method. When victory comes from preaching, you will know that God did it, because from a human standpoint, it is a failure of a method. When someone believes preaching, he really will like just the message. He will be receiving the message without anything to help it along. Nothing can help it along, but it will be obvious that it was the message that did the work. God is glorified. When innovation occurs, man gets the glory. There are other problems too, especially over a length of time, but that is a good enough reason, and one that Paul writes in depth in 1 Corinthians 1-3.
If marketing and promotion really are vital, churches should be sending their children to state universities to major in marketing or to the seminars by people who are the best at it. In fact, that's already what's happened. Certain pastors conferences have then spread that information all over, books have been written, and often a pastoral degree spends major time on it. Rather than major on what the Bible says, the emphasis shifts to what will work, at least in the short term.
One threshold of true conversion is affection for the gospel message. When men eliminate that checkpoint as necessary, something else takes prominence. You don't fool people into the narrow road. People really do need to be impressed with Jesus to be saved. When that emphasis is shifted, the nature of conversion itself changes. Someone might make a decision, but it isn't saving. More than anything, however, again God is deprived of the glory He deserves.
Go Versus Invite
Moreover, scripture says go and preach to everyone. Instead, churches very often employ an invitation philosophy, not to be confused with merely inviting someone to church. I'm talking about invitation as a strategy. Attempts to lure unbelievers very often change the nature of the assembly. I've never seen a focus on recruiting the unsaved to a meeting not modify what the church does to adapt to visitors. A common change is with the music. This is where the idea of "evangelistic music" (and then gospel music) started, the thought that you used music to affect your visitors. If your unsaved visitors came, and they couldn't relate to the music, you needed to refashion it so that they could relate.
In first considering how many come, preaching to everyone becomes secondary with the acceptance of an invitation philosophy. Usually those churches never get the gospel to everyone. They might get an invitation-to-church to everyone or some kind of direct mail, but not preaching of the gospel to all of them. It's not their goal anymore, because of this innovation of invitation. When God wants the gospel offered to everyone, it doesn't happen. His will just isn't foremost. It doesn't work as well as the new idea. People like the new idea, because it does work, and they like doing things that work. They aren't living by faith and they're not pleasing God, but they're happy. What they want is different than what God wants, and they're fine with that.
When innovations work, those who use them often designate the outcome as a work of God. They say God did it, validating the innovation like a counterfeit sign. If something works, and it is characterized as a work of God, the person using it appears to have some greater spiritual capability. For instance, the appearance of increased activity means the church "is alive," while the churches not seeing this type of movement "are dead."
The desire among men for the "living stuff" to happen, which is all the success that comes from innovation, spreads the innovation. Innovative men want to tell others about their success. You usually don't have to ask them. They figured out something no one has, and they want to talk about it.
I have had innovative men visit our church and they notice our lack of innovation, as if we're missing something, that we're clueless. "There is so much more that you could do," that "could be a real help to you." These innovations that could be a real help have usually been around for quite a few years in different forms, like the same cologne in a different bottle. The innovations aren't too hard to enact -- they're wrong to do. If they are not a replacement for the right thing to do, they are at least adding a thing that will take away the glory from God. We are told not to do that. Because of this, our church doesn't want to do these innovations. I don't want the influence upon our church from those who do them. I don't want our people thinking they're missing anything. They're not.
If I visit the church of the innovators, I notice the innovation, but I also notice the obedience to God that innovation has replaced. Almost always in some way the Bible isn't being practiced. Innovation is practiced. However, some of the Bible is not. Today it's very odd to bring up disobedience to the Bible and more normal to bring up missing innovation, as if missing innovation is what is especially missing in churches.
The churches who innovate often don't suffer for it. Other churches and pastors say nothing. No fellowship is lost. If someone does say something, he's the bad person. It reminds me of what occurs when you point out the errors of Charismaticism. The problem isn't their lie, but your "lack of love." As a result, innovation spreads.