My lovely RSS picked up an interesting feed from ChurchRelevance.com tonight. They have listed their Top 25 Most Innovative Churches in America and I found a couple things noteworthy. There are certain listings which I am not all too familiar with – such as LifeChurch.tv, the number one spot – but I am aware of many of the other listings.
Oh, and btw:
in • no • vate, adj.
- ahead of the times; “the advanced teaching methods”; “had advanced views on the subject”; “a forward looking corporation”
- being or producing something like nothing done or created or experienced before; “stylistically innovative works”; “innovative members of the artistic community”; “a mind so innovative, so original”
Saddleback and Willow Creek pulled down spots 18 and 20, respectively. For those of you who don’t know, these two churches represent the guiding light of thousands of churches throughout the country. My church is no different, I visited Willow Creek a while back. They are kind of like the “big brother” churches that show the other churches how to do it. Or at least they have been the big brothers; it appears that other styles are moving up the list – Mars Hill Bible Church, for example is at number 11. Whether you like it or not, this spells out a big step forward for emerging churches. Mars Hill, then, is a guiding light of sorts for emerging churches. (I visited them way back when too, btw.)
I point out the big brother in both “prevailing” and “emerging” churches in order to show both “sides” that it isn’t a bad thing, what these churches are doing. I have a friend in ministry who isn’t interested in the Mars Hill pastor’s conference I’m going to in a couple of weeks (called Isn’t She Beautiful?) because he isn’t drawn to that particular church model. This friend would most likely be interested in a conference at Granger Community Church (rated number 2 on the list – more on that later) than anything else – why? Because it is serving as a light for “prevailing” churches; this is not bad at all, rather it is necessary. It is necessary that churches continue to serve who they reach. Churches like Granger/Saddleback/Willow are serving a different group of people than Mars Hill is serving.
Speaking of Granger Community Church, however – it’s curious to me that they are number 2. It would be interesting to research and find out the key differences between Granger vs. Willow and Saddleback; why is Granger so much farther up the list?
Then again, I have concerns regarding the list itself too. Is the list ranked, meaning the church labeled “1” is the most innovative church in America? It also seems (as a commenter(JQ) to the list pointed out) that the churches listed are simply churches who happened to appear on both the list of 100 Fastest-Growing Churches in America and the 50 Most Influential Churches, predominantly. It seems like a coincidence and makes me wonder whether or not the panel didn’t just pick from the normal suspects.
Assuming that the list is ranked (as I’ve assumed so far) then the most interesting thing is that emerging churches are creeping up the list while prevailing churches are falling down. Albeit they aren’t plummeting down, but they are only a few spots from the bottom. What does this say? I believe it shows a cultural trend toward something different. This won’t mean much for a few years…maybe 10 or 15 before real noticeable changes…but there will be a time when the prevailing churches will no longer draw any members. The “contemporary” church style lost out a few years ago to “prevailing” so who’s to say that “emerging” can’t do the same?
Only time will tell…