Creativity in the church is good. Innovative ministry, done rightly, is the exercise of God-given creativity for the advancement of the Kingdom – and that is very good.
Unfortunately, sometimes churches innovate in the wrong ways, electing to change not just styles and human traditions, but God’s design for the church’s structure, practices, and doctrine. This is deeply unwise, even when the goals behind such changes are good.
1 Chronicles 13 and 15 describe the two efforts David made to bring the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. The first attempt is famous for its failure, because they carried the ark on an ox-cart and when the oxen stumbled a man touched the ark to steady it and was struck down by the wrath of God.
As notable as this warning passage is, we shouldn’t pass by the encouraging note of the second – and successful – attempt. David renews his desire to bring the ark to a resting place in the royal city, and this time he makes sure to do it the right way. The Levites are to carry it “because the LORD chose them to carry the ark of the LORD and to minister before him forever” (15:2). They will use not a cart – even a “new cart” (13:7) – but the poles borne on their shoulders, “as Moses had commanded in accordance with the word of the LORD” (15:15).
David himself sums up one key lesson the situation had taught: things went poorly the first time because “We did not inquire of him [God] about how to do it in the prescribed way” (15:13). Failure to heed God’s instructions about how something was to be done led to serious consequences. Carefully attending to God’s words, in contrast, led to joyful success.
Even so in the church. When we think we know better than God how things ought to be done – when we wish to substitute our ‘enlightened’ new cart for the commandments of the Almighty, we court disaster. If we don’t meet that disaster, that’s just one more example of His merciful forbearance. But we’re not here to try God’s patience with our folly. The church will meet with success and God’s blessing when we do things God’s way; we will be the community we’ve been called to, and we’ll see the peace and transformation He promises.
Joy will result.