When you look at church history, you realize there was a time when those who followed Christ were doing a lot of the innovating. Science had such luminaries as Galileo, Pascal, Faraday, and Pasteur. Artists like Bach, Vivaldi, and Dvořák dramatically changed music. Literary greats like Dostoyevsky, Tolkien, and Tolstoy made us rethink our lives in light of our faith. And painters like Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Van Gogh were inspired by their own spirituality.
Artists and scientists like these dramatically inspired others in their fields—even those who didn’t share their philosophies.
But we don’t hear about these kinds of Christian innovators so much anymore. In fact, it’s common to hear people in and outside the church comment on the church being behind the times when it comes to art, science, and technology.
What happened? It seems the church has fallen behind the culture and is constantly playing catch up when it comes to relevance and influence.
The Rise of the Christian Subculture Discouraged Innovation
One of the biggest factors in the decline of influence and innovation is the rise of the Christian subculture. This subculture became a closed community to the rest of the world. No longer did it create schools offering the best possible education like Yale or Princeton; instead they created uniquely Christian schools for Christian students. We created our own media, radio stations, and even our own retail.
Instead of competing with the rest of the world, Christians sought to fund Christian versions of things that were popular in the culture. As the chasm widened between this subculture and the rest of the world, an enmity and disregard began to crop up between the two. The culture heaped scorn on the church for its irrelevance, and the church began to see the culture it lived in as a dangerous place that our children need to be rescued from.
This means that Christians either worked in secular industries under a veil of secrecy or they created material for the subculture. The nice thing about choosing the latter path was that there was enough money for business to flourish in the subculture, but what they created only had to be as good as everything else in that space. There wasn’t much room for innovating.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
The church should be using its remarkable talents to create the best stuff in the world. We desperately need committed believers who discover, create, and celebrate the most cutting-edge tech, businesses, art, literature, science, and music in the world—not just the best in the Christian subculture.
When the world is forced to acknowledge that the church is full of talented artisans, thinkers, and creatives who impact the world at large, it’s a game changer. It plays an important part in drawing people to the church. Instead of seeing their ambition and creativity being a barrier to faith, it can help facilitate it! That is what Christ-centered innovating is all about.
This what we’re trying to do with Pushpay. We want to make the best mobile-giving and engagement solution in the world. We’re creating something that leading businesses and non-profits can use to facilitate engagement and support with their customers and clients. We want the church to have the best, so we’re creating the very best.
We need to encourage the coming generations to engage with their culture and not retreat from it. We want them to be proud of what Christians are doing in the world. We can do that by learning how to engage with these generations.