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A call to innovate for Jesus

Justin Blaney and Matt Carter » Mission Worldviews Planning

Innovation is a hot concept, whether in the church, nonprofit, or corporate worlds. How can Christian leaders use innovation to advance Jesus’ mission?

Many organizations today are discovering that it’s not enough to ride the wave of status quo of what worked over the last ten years. The most successful organizations are always pressing to discover the next big thing, the next cutting edge that will impact our culture over the next decade. 

Innovation is essential

Some of the best-performing organizations have entire departments devoted to innovating. Others allow their employees a certain amount time each week to work on anything they choose. Such tinkering can form the foundation for major initiatives that propel an organization past its peers in effectiveness because of the unique competitive advantage that comes with innovation. That’s because it takes several years to copy what another organization is doing. The innovative companies have already moved on to the next innovation by the time their peers have figured out how to do what they were doing half a decade ago.

The most successful organizations are always pressing to discover the next big thing.

On the other hand, it’s easy to find organizations that rode their own coattails into obscurity, mediocrity, and bankruptcy. Look no further than Kodak, which did too little, too late to adapt to digital photography, and Circuit City, which never figured out how to connect with customers in a profitable way in an internet age. A decade before their demise, both of these companies were at the top of their game. Effectively, all that’s left of them are Wikipedia articles. Sadly, this phenomenon is not limited to corporations. There are many churches and nonprofits buried in the same graveyard.

Innovation for the gospel

When it comes to innovating for Jesus, we’re calling those who serve Jesus to grow themselves and their organizations to become the best they can be by adopting the most effective practices and best available wisdom. Rather than seeking profit, the purpose of innovating for Jesus is to more effectively share the gospel with as many people as possible.

The Bible is clear about calling us to do our best: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for me, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).

The purpose of innovating for Jesus is to more effectively share the gospel with as many people as possible.

Part of doing our best involves creating new innovations and learning from those who have innovated before us: “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed” (Eccl. 10:10).

Relying on stale innovations or working without taking advantage of the best innovations available to us is like working with a blunt tool. You may get the job done, but you’re a lot less effective. 

6 steps to more innovation

Here are six steps you can take to increase your innovation quotient:

  1. Find 2–3 high-quality blogs to follow, and spend 30–60 minutes a week reading them. 
     
  2. Budget time and money to attend 1–2 of the best conferences that speak to your interests and gifting. Take notes, network with other like-minded innovators, and refill your creative tank.
     
  3. Try to read one new book per month. If you don’t have time to read, learn to skim. Take notes on what you read, and keep your notes organized so you can review them later.
     
  4. Give yourself the freedom and time to be creative. Set aside at least 15 minutes every day, an hour a week, and a day a month for dreaming, contemplating, and innovating. This is time that can’t be spent on putting out fires or the daily grind. Don’t worry about an agenda. Just give yourself margin to create.
     
  5. Ask God to help you be open to learning and creating. Innovating requires a teachable spirit and an openness to new ideas. God created every human to have some capacity for inventing and creating new things. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be creative, there is a part of you that is made to create.
     
  6. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Most new ideas and innovations don’t work out the way you hope. But with persistence and continuous incremental improvement, great ideas can be born. 

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