In our last post (“The Supreme Motivation for Innovation”), we learned that God’s unmistakable innovational impulse throughout redemptive history is motivated by His love for us.
But there’s a delicate question we need to ask—specifically of those who claim to be in relationship with God through our faith in Jesus Christ, particularly to those who claim to be Christ-followers. Here it is:
Is it a sin not to innovate?
My working theory as we explore a working theology of innovation is this: as those whose lives have been utterly, completely, and forever changed by the love of God, innovation is in our spiritual genes, is love-motivated, and relationally-driven. So is it a sin not to innovate?
We brought our whole team together and posed that very question. I began by asking people to vote Yes or No by raising hands. And then we wrote our reasons for those opinions up on the whiteboard, and the debate was off. We didn’t come to full agreement. And that’s fine. But the conversation itself raised the stakes of innovation in our minds and hearts as a team. And that was so good.
One passage of Scripture that was formative in our discussion was Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 where Jesus indicates that His expectation is that we do the best we can with what He’s given us. In other words, when God gives us all various skills, competencies, gifts, and resources but we do nothing but “bury” them—not working hard to invest them for multiplied value—we can expect Him to be displeased and should not expect any reward from Him. But if we are deliberate in maximizing what we’ve been given from Him, we can expect His praise and great reward from Him. Does this apply to our conversation on innovation for Christ-followers? Could be.
Let’s add to our rationale what we’ve learned so far about innovation’s highest motivation. If the primary motivation driving innovation ought to be love, then isn’t it actually unloving to not innovate? If so, then, in more technical theological terms, that would then be known as a sin of omission (where something good or right goes undone. This is in contrast to a sin of commission where something bad or wrong is done). Interesting to think through this stuff, isn’t it?
My personal conviction is that, yes, it’s a sin to not actively be trying to innovate. So, on March 8, 2017, I actually got to the point of asking my Strategy Team for forgiveness for not championing innovation as I should have been as the senior leader on our team. I confessed that I had succumbed to a) the tyranny of the urgent (the sheer busyness of week-to-week ministry planning and execution); b) not rewarding innovation, but rewarding error-free performance; c) thinking more is better when it comes to ministry offerings (this is where our idea that “thoughtful simplicity is so much harder than careless complexity” was born); and d) abdicating my role as Chief Innovative Officer (CIO) to the larger Leadership Team rather than championing it and inspiring us to deliberately make time for it. This conviction has changed the way I approach the stewardship of my time, energy, and gifts as a leader.
Finally, I’m compelled to point out one huge tension-filled CAUTION which comes from WCL Executive Pastor and strategy wizard, Dave Smith. While it may be a sin for a Christian leader to not innovate, it may also be a sin for a Christian leader to never stop innovating—to get so obsessed with innovation that there is no regular rhythm of rest from that work (Gn 2:2; Ex 20:8-11). If we believe that God wants us to be in the innovation game for the long haul, then that means being wise about how we implement a rev-rest rhythm to our innovative efforts. It’s a balancing act. But we can be sure that God will give us the discernment needed to find the right rhythm (Jas 1:5).
So how about you? Do you think it’s a sin for a Christian leader to not innovate? Why or why not?