The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

I know that this blog is about being a United Methodist and not about technology.  But technology certainly is the vehicle that allows me to blog and use social media to talk about my journey in the UMC.

I’m a long time Mac switcher.  That means I started out in the Windows world and moved to using Macintosh computers close to ten years ago.  For some people the argument about which OS is better takes on religious overtones.

I’m writing this blog right now using the Windows 8 preview release which just came out this week.  I’m running the preview on my MacBook using VMware Fusion, a piece of software that allows you to run other Operating Systems on your Mac at the same time that you are running the Mac OS.  (Yes, Macs are that cool.  I admit it.  😉   )

The brand new Windows 8 has a very different user interface that totally moves away from the usual windows desktop metaphor.  Instead the screen is covered with colored tiles each representing an application or task that you can perform in Windows.  You can get to the old Windows desktop if you like but it is just another application to run within the new tiled environment.

After I played with the interface for a few minutes I kept thinking, “this some how looks familiar.  Why does this look so familiar?”  Well then it dawned on me.  I reached over and picked up my iPad (Yes, I’m big fan of the iPad too.) and it occurred to me that the new Windows interface just looks like a copy of the way the iPad works.

Some windows user will object and say, “No!, the new windows interface is cool color tiles the iPad uses icons.”  But really how different is it?  Generally the new Windows 8 replaces rows of icons on the screen to click on for apps with rows of boxes on the screen to click on to get to apps.  How different is it really?

I have to say I’m not surprised.  Apple has always been the innovator and Microsoft has tended to copy many of Apple’s innovations to improve their system.

So how on earth does this relate to theology?  Well often what has happened with Microsoft is that they have copied an idea from Apple only to find out that it really doesn’t work as well in the Microsoft Windows environment as it did in the Apple environment.  It comes off as lame because it isn’t a new idea it is a recycled idea that worked well on one OS and not as well on another.

I’m afraid churches do the very same thing and are encouraged to do so.  Many books on church growth, change, and church transformation have been written by pastors or popular theological writers who used a program in their church and found it successful.  Everyone buys the book and tries to reproduce the success of what someone else did in their context in their own church to only find out that what works at Saddle Back or Willow Creek very well might not actually work well in their church because their situation (like a  different OS) has different needs, different constituents, different demographics, etc.

So copying someone else’s ideas may be the sincerest form of flattery but the truth is that often a copy never works as well as the original.  And that in the world of church copying what another church does to reach others for Christ also usually does not work as well as finding the vision and direction that God wants for your church and the community your church serves in.

I would encourage any church to find its own nitch for service and ministry in their community, to seek to meet the needs they find around them, and to cast the vision that God has for them rather than try fit square boxes into round icons and be something your church wasn’t intended to be.