Towns, Elmer. Stetzer, Ed. Bird, Warren. 11 Innovations in the Local Church. How Today’s Leaders Can Learn, Discern and Move in the Future. Regal, 2007
What we have here is the result of research by the authors regarding different ways in which churches minister uniquely. Some of the innovations could really be described as ‘distinctives’. The message is unchanging; however, the methods must change if churches want to remain relevant. Both the strengths and weaknesses of the innovations are presented. The innovations have the DNA of the ‘practicing churches’, so in that sense they are one of a kind. E.g. Multi-site in one church may look quite different than multi-site in another church. Some of the labels may be a matter of semantics. Broadly speaking, all churches are attractional. For churches committed to effective change this would be a helpful resource.
The house church (movement) is presented. Seven characteristics are identified. They all relate to community where convictions, learning, faith-formation, value-formation, mentoring, belonging and self-identity are developed. “Covenant community” (49) happens more readily in a house church than in a campus church.
The “recovery church” is a church that really addresses the need for people to deal with various forms of dysfunction (spiritual, emotional, social, etc.) and helps those lead productive, balanced lives. The focus is on freedom.
“Multi-site churches” (65) are in some ways an innovation of church planting. It is a fairly recent concept that more and more churches are opting for.
”Ancient-future” (85) churches present an experience of worship that seeks to combine the traditional and ancient practices with contemporary flavor. To those who prefer this innovation it is more than just style of worship.
There are some very ‘successful’ churches whose innovation is a strong commitment to reach their city. E.g. Falwell in Lynchburg, Ed Silvoso in Argentina. “City reaching is still mostly a concept and not yet enough of a real church experience.” (122)
An innovation that is similar to city reaching is “community transforming” churches. (130) These churches seek to be “a dominant social force for good”. (135) If Christianity touches culture in a positive way it will be changed. Social needs should not suggest a social gospel.
“Cyber4-enhanced churches” (143) is an up and coming innovation. An actual ‘cyber church’ is not a reality yet. The dispensing of information works well in cyber ministry. Community and commitment are a challenge.
Children focused ministry has worked very effectively for some churches. The authors label such churches as “Nickelodeon-Style children-focused churches”. (165)
Some churches have had success with a multiculturalism focus. This is not the same as being multi-ethnic or multi-racial, etc. “The gospel is transcultural, but communication is not.” (183)
The label “decision-journey churches” (197) is used to describe churches that place importance on balancing the experience of conversion with the journey of faith. They prefer the designation ‘follower of Christ’ to the label ‘Christian’. Coming to faith is a process.
The final ‘innovation’ presented is the “attractional churches”. (218) When churches are into things that send the message ‘come and see’ they display attractional traits. Success is usually measured (numerically). Consumerism and favoritism are challenges.