There’s a popular idea out there that shows up every couple of months. It’s the idea that you can take a policy that works in one location and plant it down in another with the same results.
I see this in memes and in political discussions very often. Pick a topic. Maybe its something about how one country has a higher standard of living, so clearly if we take their minimum wage and workers benefits package and implement them here, then we’ll also get a higher standard of living. Or maybe it’s something like seeing how one state has low taxes and is doing well so we just adopt the same tax level and we’ll get the same results.
The problem with this is that these “solutions” are far to simplistic. They make for a nice meme or tweet, but they make bad policy. That’s because there is no consideration for why a policy might work in a specific context – the people, the culture, the history, etc. There are many moving parts. Policy, on its own, is generally not the main ingredient in why something works. It’s the people who make something work – the way it is implemented, the trust between people and institutions to implement the basic idea, the context, the cultural understandings, etc.
Sometimes taking a policy from one location to another works, but I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say that this is mostly not the case. Often the policy ends up with different results because of the many variables that relate to it. You can’t just insert one policy in a mixture of variables and expect the same result where ever it is tried.
This is true for the church too. For too long we take this same idea and do it in church. We think that if the church is doing something right in one location, it must be because of some policy that the church is doing – so we should pluck out the policy and bring it over to a church that is struggling. Bam! Instant positive results! Except Not. That’s not how life works.
Something that is working at one church may very well make a positive impact on another church. Then again, you might get the opposite result.
Context matters. The people in a location, in a church, matters. And lest we forget, what God is up to in a church really matters. Instead of trying to find a magic solution in other churches, we should be looking at how God is active in our own context, what God is calling us to do and be in the context first. When we try to be some other church, then we are bound to fail. Instead, let’s be the church we are called to be, where we are. You might be surprised with the result.