In the tech world, particularly in software development, a sandbox is a testing environment that isolates untested code changes and outright experimentation from the production environment or storage place. Sandboxes serve the function of being creative spaces where new concepts and ideas can be explored and pursued. I believe that the church needs to return to being a sandbox.
If one takes a step back to look at the larger sociological picture that makes up the church, it doesn’t take long to see the diversity of theological and philosophical expression that makes up the body of Christ. There are extremely conservative churches and there are extremely progressive ones. If you can think of an issue on either side of the social or political spectrum, there is likely a group of people that make up a church that holds that issue dear. Generally speaking, such diversity of conviction is good for humanity and the world because it provides widespread perspective. Historically, it has made the church a sandbox for creativity in all aspects of life.
One of these areas that is often conveniently forgotten is the fact that the church and religious communities throughout the world have historically served as mothers of the human scientific advancement that has led to technological creativity. Blaise Pascal significantly advanced mathematics and the physical sciences. Gregor Mendel–the Augustinian Friar–became founder of the modern science of genetics from the monastery. Francis Collins directed the success of the human genome project in 2000 from a personal place of theological conviction.
Kepler, Galileo, Meitner, Bacon, Newton, and the list goes on. These are only a few examples, but accounts like these are widespread because the church for centuries has served the function of providing understandings of ultimate meaning to our work and life. Science and Technology have been critical tools that help us discover our world, how it works, and how we can steward it. Christians, then, have been inherently drawn to these disciplines because we want to understand more fully the God with whom it originated.
Beyond this, Humans are, in our very being, CoCreators. We seek to explore and develop our God-given abilities that enable our creativity. We do so because deep in our being, we want to live more fully into the image of the God who created us.
The challenge in the modern era is that institutional church has largely lost this innovative/creative spirit. Instead of doing creative ministry that addresses and engages many facets of life, we have programmatic systems that once addressed temporary social needs. Now, many of those needs have changed or are changing, and the church has been slow to adapt. Instead, we keep “sticking to the program.”
As a result, the church in the U.S. is in decline. It isn’t that people love God less, it is that they struggle to support institutions that don’t actively further the human purpose of redeeming the world and humanity. People know that this is a problem that we can no longer avoid or escape. We have reached a critical time in history where the institutional church will either, once again, return to being a sandbox or it will meet its demise.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. In what ways is your church good at fostering creativity?
2. In what ways does your church need to adapt to become a sandbox?
3. What are some good first steps that your church could make today to start moving toward supporting scientific and technological creativity in your community?