In 1996, now megapastor Craig Groeschel was an associate pastor at a United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. As I did, Craig studied business in college before choosing a life in ministry. In his book, Confessions of a Pastor, he alludes to presenting his church leadership with a plan to use modern marketing techniques. In 1996, marketing was a dirty word in the church, though obviously we have softened to the idea A) because it’s effective, and B) because when Jesus is the message, how can marketing it be wrong! The first time I heard this story (admittedly second hand) it was said that the answer Craig got was, “We’re not ready for that.” Evidently Groeschal disagreed. He decided to leave the United Methodist Church and open up his own church in his two car garage. This church became Life Church, which now has over 24 campuses and claims to be one of the largest churches in the United States.
Craig had an entrepreneurial (read: Spirit-driven) heart. He was willing to put himself “out there” in order to innovate. Entrepreneurs will tell you how scary this part is. It’s like asking a crush out for the first time…except you’re not just asking one person, you’re asking everybody! A person willing to innovate once often becomes a serial innovator.
When the United Methodists decided to pass on Craig’s idea, they didn’t just sacrifice a new marketing technique, they passed on every innovation that has come out of Life Church since then. The list is daunting, but here are some of the highlights:
- 1996 – Craig immediately started using projection.
- 2001 – Life Church started producing video sermons, 4 years before YouTube.
- 2006 – Life Church started Mysecret.tv, an outlet for people to confess anonymously online.
- 2007 – Life Church held a major worship event in Second Life (they weren’t the first in this space, but they were quick to adapt).
- 2008 – Life Church launched ChurchOnlinePlatform, letting churches steam their services for free, and YouVersion. YouVersion has been the most popular Bible App since it’s inception, bringing the Word to millions.
The next time someone comes to you with an idea “ahead of it’s time,” reasons to resist will abound. However, the cost of “We’re not ready for that,” the unknown possibilities, can be magnificently regrettable.