Some months ago I was in the Nobel museum in Stockholm. It was inspiring to read the stories and achievements of some of the greatest thinkers, writers, scientists, chemists, medical experts and peacemakers over the past 100 years or so. Many I’ve never heard of and a few didn’t really do all that much. One of the names I came across, nearly everyone has heard of, Albert Einstein. As part of the exhibit about this great man I read this:
“You have to be brave if you want to think differently.”
First my focus was on the bravery. It does indeed take courage to say what no one else is saying and believe it to be true in the face of opposition, scepticism and rejection. It requires guts to examine the way things are being done and say I’m not sure that’s the best way of doing it. I’m not sure that’s right. It takes courage to explore new avenues of thinking. This is not to say the new is always right or better, that the unworn path will be any better than the path well travelled, but sometimes it does take courage to boldly go where few or none has gone before.
Secondly, my focus shifted to ‘thinking differently.’ As a church planter how should I think differently? Certainly in the area of theology, we are cautious and sceptical of innovative thinkers. Those that think differently often stray from orthodoxy (right thinking) and wander off into heresy. The faith has been handed down, there is something, we believe, unchanging about the truths of the Christian faith. The gospel of Jesus is for all people, in all places at all times. Don’t change it, don’t mess with it.
However in the methodology of the church there is much more freedom to think differently (although too often we meet the same forces of conservatism and reaction) but here we should be more generous. There is a need to think about how best to bring the Gospel to each new context. It is right to think through how to engage with social media, differing forms of music, differing ways of organising (to multi-site or not to multi-site that is the question), differing ways of discipling, teaching, training, evangelising. Yet in each case thinking differently remains an act of courage.
The last observation was that it sometimes takes a lifetime for ideas to shift and yet we remain in a great hurry. An idea needs to prove itself within a year or five, yet really it takes the courage to take an idea that you are convinced is right and to hold to it until, as with Einstein, ‘eventually they all agree’. Although that won’t happen with Christians as we can’t agree about anything.
Still, have courage. Think different.