It’s been said that the 7 last words of the church are “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Actually, in some newer churches it’s the opposite. “We can’t do it that way, that’s the way we used to do it.” I know it’s more than seven words, but they’re just as final.

Sometimes new churches are reluctant to do things the traditional way — no matter how well the traditional method worked.

In fact, the church often invests a great deal of energy re-inventing the wheel for the sake of re-invention. Unfortunately, the alternative wheel sometimes isn’t very round and it doesn’t roll very well.

A church I worked with resisted the idea of having a formal membership. Instead, they sought a better label: partners, ministers, family members, delegates.

The distinctive significance in these terms was lost on most people, and some said that a couple of the terms sounded cultish.

This church is dead set on changing their terminology in order to convince themselves they’re not doing what they did at the old church: creating a roll of active, committed attenders.

What do they think is so wrong with such a roll? That’s how the traditional does it, and that’s not us.

The traditional church model is not the enemy. In fact, when fused with the right people, it works pretty good.

We don’t need new terminology to give our ministry relevance. Neither can we build a long-term ministry on novel approaches.

Churches who call their members by different names, or who scrap the sermon in favor of panel discussions, or who make casual clothes the new dress code discover eventually that some innovations run out of the steam.

Churches don’t need to find a new of doing things as much as they need to determine the best way of doing things — whether the idea is brand new, or whether it’s a carry over from a previous century. That’s what innovation in ministry really is.

Are you struggling with a leadership decision? Take a look at how the church has traditionally approached similar circumstances.

You just might find some wisdom there.