Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Innovation, Adaptation and a Passionate Cry

Innovation, Adaptation and the Christian Gospel

What is innovation? Does the church need it today? Can the church learn from the business world in relation to innovation? Does the Bible challenge followers of Jesus to be innovative and adaptive or is it merely a 21st Century business concept?

Innovation is not just a goal to reach, it is a mindset. Innovative people are on the prowl for breaking new ground. In Fast Thinking Magazine (Autumn 2010), Steve Rust says, 'Innovation isn't something that can be switched on at the beginning of the quarter in an attempt to boost the numbers or suddenly to counter a competitive threat. Innovation is a habit that grows with the organisation and becomes part of it fabric' (: 14). Glenn Wightwick, director of IBM Australia says that Innovation is a part of their company's DNA. The question I ask is not so much whether innovation is important to business but whether innovation is important in the Church today. 

In Fast Thinking Magazine, I recently read, from a business perspective, "There is an explosion in innovation across the board and, importantly, it's not coming from the big companies - most of the activity is now found in the small and medium arena." Why is bigger business struggling to keep up with innovation? Mostly because larger companies have stifling bureaucracies that do not encourage new exploration. They spend their time predominantly maintaining the busyness on products/concepts they have previously innovated! What striking parallelism this has to the Church universal, when we consider stifling bureaucracies, lifeless churches and drawn-out decision making by professional clergy, and our general inability to break new ground around us. 

Euguene Peterson's adapts the words of Paul in 1 Cor 9:19-22 (MSG). He writes, 'Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.'

Paul is innovative and has the ability to adapt to the environment around him. He changes the way he speaks depending on his audience. He adapts the way he shares the message of Jesus so that the differing crowds can understand and connect with his content. Maybe Paul is the first innovative Christian in the beginnings of the Christian Church?

The Salvation Army began under the leadership of William and Catherine Booth. This couple are known for their pioneering work that began a movement that has now spread to over 120 countries and counting. They were innovative and were willing to adapt the methods of preaching the gospel to (initially) their East London audience and then many other provinces and Countries around the world. Catherine Booth writes in Aggressive Christianity of our lack of desire to be adaptable, 'We are so conservative in our relationship by nature. We have such a rooted dislike and almost hatred for anything that would disturb our carefully constructed, comfortable Christianity' (: 66). In reference to adaptation, Catherine writes, 'While the Gospel does not change, we are given complete freedom to adapt the way we bring it to people in the circumstances, times, and conditions in which we live' (: 67). 

I'm calling for the church to be passionately innovative and courageously adaptable to the culture we live in. We by no means undermine or alter the unchanging message of the Gospel, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we become missionaries in our own backyards. We are no longer building ghettos of Christian Hymn Singing, but radical, innovative expressions of Christian faith, that revolutionise the communities we inhabit.

Innovate. Innovate. Innovate. Adapt. Adapt. Adapt again. Change. Try something new.

Who knows... it might just work, and God will get all the glory.

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