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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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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COMMENTS

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!"

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

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