I just completed some reading in church history. Studying history reminds me how valuable it can be for leaders to learn from the lessons of the past.
During the 1930’s, the country France decided it must apply the lessons of past it and its military leaders learned during the during the bloodbath of the World War I.
The result was the Maginot Line. The Maginot line reflected the hard fought and costly lessons of the past war. France, not wanting to fail at applying the lessons of experience, built a concrete monument to the lessons of history. France had seen the horror of frontal attack trench warfare and determined that they would prevent an attack from Germany by constructing an impressive set of military fortifications–fortifications so robust, no country would dare conduct a frontal attack again.
France built the Maginot line to fight the last war based on faulty assumptions.
- Assumption: Germany would not violate Belgian or Dutch sovereignty.
- Assumption: Air power was overrated
- Assumption: Canons do not need to rotate because their position could not be outflanked.
Germany too learned some lessons from World War I. They decided that instead of fighting the same war, they would fight a new war–a different war. Germany saw the potential of speed, maneuver, and shock to reshape warfare.
The Maginot Line is a monument to the failure of imagination.
Germany drew lessons of imagination and innovation from the past. France drew the lesson of having a more improved past.
What, I wonder, is the 21st Century Church failing to imagine or see the potential of?
Take for example the online church. The lesson of the past would be to see the online church as a digital, on-demand, church service. In other words, it just a technologically enabled way to do the same thing–listen to a pastor teach a sermon.
Imagine, though if the online church was something different that we have not yet conceived or apprehended yet.
We assume it is just a message on a screen. What if it is something entirely different that we have not imagined yet because we are locked into our assumptions of what is and not what it could be.
The online church might be:
- An underutilized learning and development platform.
- A pre-core church planting gathering tool.
- A searchable archive of Bible illustrations and lessons.
- A digital discipleship platform
- A transformer of spaces and places into temporary worship services
- A carrier of the Gospel into the digital landscape millions of people inhabit for hours each day and week.
- The “first impression” of church
- A breaker of national borders
- A source of on-screen content in driverless cars
- An augmented reality engine
- A virtual reality destination
- An artificial intelligence platform providing customized and individualized felt and unfelt need-based content.
- The only church available for satellite, Moon-based, and Mars-based facilities.
France had a fixed view how things should play out.
France had no flexibility of imagination. Germany experienced the same lessons and drew entirely different ideas from it.
The Maginot Line is still there. It stands a monument to not seeing what might be. Our thoughts about the church will either serve the future or become monuments to our failed imagination. Let us pray it is the latter.