Church Flops?

From Geoff Surratt:

At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City a rail-thin engineering student from Oregon State named Dick Fosbury stunned the world of track and field with his approach to the high jump competition. Rather than sprinting straight toward the bar like the other competitors, Fosbury stood to one side and ran toward the bar in a short loop. At the last-minute he turned his back and threw himself head first over the bar with his feet trailing as he fell on his back to the mat. No one had seen anything like this before; it was completely unorthodox, dangerous and possibly against the rules. Fosbury would have been laughed out of the competition except he had just set a new Olympic high jump record at 7 feet 4 1/4 inches. To this day on every Olympic high jump champion goes over the bar backwards in what is known as the Fosbury Flop. Dick Fosbury revolutionized his sport because he was willing to do something no one else had tried, to jump over the bar backwards.

The American church needs more Dick Fosburys. We need leaders who stay within biblical standards and respect the traditions of the church, but are willing to jump over the bar backwards. Too many churches are stagnant, too many church plant fails and too many people are unreached with the Gospel to continue to do the same thing over and over and hope for different results. The current models of Americna churches produce extraordinary results only when led by extraordinary leaders backed by extraordinary piles of cash. We don’t need to abandon these current models, but we have to find new models to reach new segments of society and see new patterns of success. So how do we find the “Fosbury Flop” in the American church? Here are a couple of ideas for starters….

I’m not suggesting that the answer to our woes is to sit in circles, cut sermons to 18 minutes or switch to 5 minutes of Gregorian chant. What I am saying is we do the same things over and over and wonder why the uninitiated don’t connect. We’ve created the one right way to do church, the one right way to go over the bar, and we’ve closed our minds to jumping over backwards.

Is your church ready to flop?

There was a time when Dick Fosbury was the only person on the planet who thought jumping backwards over a high jump bar was a good idea. Until he won an Olympic Gold medal he was just a goofy engineering student from Oregon, when he cleared the bar at 7’ 4 1/2” he became the trendsetter for the next 50 years. We need more Dick Fosburys in the American Church. We need leaders who are willing to walk away from what they know, from what is safe, from what is comfortable and find a new way to share the timeless Gospel. But they need to succeed. It isn’t enough to be different, you have to make an impact. Little experiments are great, but at some point you have to win a Gold medal for the world to notice you exist. We need bold, crazily talented leaders who will lead us to a new model of church based not just on the past, but on what God wants to do in the future.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.