When most people think innovation, they think technology—Google Glass, augmented reality, sliced bread. But God wants us to grow an innovative faith that invigorates us and changes the world. The alternative is a stale faith, so here are seven tips to get you started on that path.
1. Grow an innovative faith by embracing your calling.
The dictionary definition of innovation is “to make new.” That’s what Jesus came to do! Jesus is the consummate innovator and his Gospel is the spiritual force of God at work in the world to make all things new. He takes broken lives and makes them new. He takes diseased hearts and makes them new. He takes shattered dreams and makes them new.
As Jesus followers, our calling is innovate the whole world using God’s truth and God’s love. As we innovate and re-package truths, they “become new” to us and the people who hear them.
2. Grow an innovative faith by experimenting with fresh metaphors.
I’m currently writing a book about living a victorious Christian life by using Time Travel as the central metaphor. Quite a few people have remarked, “Whoah, that makes so much sense to me!” The Time Travel schtick isn’t for everyone, but let’s be honest—neither is farming imagery. Be on the lookout for metaphors that put a fresh spin on old truths and watch them come to life in your heart.
3. Grow an innovative faith by choosing fresh language.
Language is symbolic, so this builds on my last point. This Fall I preached a sermon series called “How to Survive a Personal Apocalypse,” playing on the end of the world motif running roughshod through 2012. My favourite sermon was a zinger about zombies. My big takeaway? Jesus loves to take people who are alive (and yet also dead: zombies) and unzombify them. The younger generation totally clicked with that lingo. I sure do.
4. Grow an innovative faith by experimenting with fresh mediums.
I’m leaning pretty heavily into Facebook this year. I used to try to draw people to my website, but now the website is simply a spoke on my Facebook hub. Why? Because the best way to connect with people is to meet them where they are. Where are they? On Facebook. Using LIKE and SHARE features has extended my reach exponentially.
But innovation isn’t just about technology or social media. Have you lit a candle during your quiet time recently? Or sat in pitch darkness? Or gone for a worship walk? Variety is the spice of… uh… faith.
5. Grown an innovative faith by becoming a fresh medium.
No, I don’t mean communicating with ghosts or spirits. I mean incarnating the truth (and Jesus) in creative ways. We show the world how Jesus loves, instead of just telling them that he loves. How? Random acts of kindness. Or even better, strategic acts of kindness. I have a “God pocket” in my wallet that holds money and gift certificates reserved for giving away to people as I sense the Holy Spirit prompting me. That way I’m ready to “be the miracle” when the time comes.
6. Grow an innovative faith by embracing innovation as a way of life.
Innovation is a way of life. The world needs innovative problem solvers, innovative coaches, innovative conflict resolvers, innovative leaders, innovative teachers. The church needs innovative ushers, musicians, pastors, and Sunday School teachers. Our homes need innovative husbands, wives, roommates, parents. Our friends and neighbours have tuned out the traditional packaging. For many, the only way they will hear the truth is to hear it “made new” through innovative living, loving, and speaking.
7. Grow an innovative faith by juxtaposing strange things.
We just re-watched the Christmas classic, Elf as a family. I love the scene where Buddy douses his spaghetti with maple syrup, leaving his hosts aghast. In contrast, I remember watching Sesame street’s well intentioned “One of these things just doesn’t belong here” exercises. While teaching boxes and categories help kids form concepts, it also stifles creativity and innovation. Innovation is often the result of combining two things that shouldn’t be—or haven’t been—combined before.
Well, that’s just a launch pad. How do you foster an innovative approach to life and faith?