To think outside of the box, we first need to know what the box is when it comes to the Church and ministry. Perhaps we can say the sides of the box form the parameters we’ve built around us … maybe our policies, traditions, denominational nuances, comfort level, etc.
The parameters may not be wrong in and of themselves, but the programs and strategies we’ve held on to may not work today. We need to think outside of the box. For the Church to not only survive but thrive, we need to constantly challenge what we do, asking if there’s another better way to accomplish ministry that best fits our current situation.
How far outside of the box can we go?
We first need to get down to the essence of who we are and what we’re to do as the Church. That means stripping away man-made conditions about it until we truly get down to the biblical mandates. What must stay the same is what’s actually commanded in Scripture. All the other parameters (sides of our boxes), can potentially be broken down, exposing who God truly designed us to be.
As an example, God commands us to not neglect meeting together (Heb. 10:25). But, Scripture does not tell us where, when, and how long we must meet. But, it does tell us why … so we can encourage one another. The essence of this command is that we meet to encourage one another — that’s what we must stay true to. When we strip away everything else, and start thinking outside of the box, we should find that there are so many, many ways to make that happen. The box we created undoubtedly is not the only way.
If we’re going to thrive as a Church, we must stop viewing what we do now against how we’ve always done it. To think outside of the box, we no longer use the box as the lens through which we look but rather God’s Word. That’s the foundation on which we build our new structures.
Is there biblical precedence for thinking outside of the box?
We do have precedence for thinking outside of the box with Jesus.
Jesus lived in a world steeped in tradition where the phrase “But we’ve always done it this way” would have been the way of life. He enters the scene in a most nontraditional way … a virgin birth, born in a manger. The methodology used in His teaching, healings, and miracles varied. He did not serve people the same way each time but rather tailored what He did to the moment. He raised women to a higher plateau than common for that day. Some of the activities of Jesus and His disciples went so much against status quo that it disturbed, even angered, the religious leaders. After being killed on the cross, He came to life proving that He could conquer death and sin. Who had ever done that before?
If Jesus, in a world where the pace of change was not near as rapid as today, thought outside of the box and took the risk, why shouldn’t we? Make no mistake, Jesus lined up His earthly activity with the will of the Father (Jn. 5:17-23). He knew why He came and lived accordingly.
Likewise, we too must align with God’s Word and His character in whatever risks we take. We must get to the essence … God’s purposes, design, and mission … and live accordingly. As we think outside the box, let’s envelope all we do in prayer, stay consistent with God’s Word, and follow the leading of His Spirit. When we do, we’ll find a fluidity and ability to adapt, not rigid walls that box us in.