Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Christ-based innovation: eschatology and entrepreneurship

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Christ-based innovation, a short piece, written with a KCML colleague, Mark Johnston, for SPANZ Summer 2017. It uses eschatology to consider innovation, building on my chapter on Jesus the innovator in Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration

The Bible ends with a vision of creation restored and reconciled. At the heart is Jesus Christ – crucified, risen – announcing the making of all things new (Rev 21:5). This provides a way to understand Christ-based innovation.  

Presbyterian theologian Michael Jinkins calls Christ-based innovation one of the most remarkable and vital hallmarks of our Reformed legacy. It is a way to make sense of the call of the Reformers to ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, the Church always in need of being reformed. Presbyterians were innovators with the capacity to draw from the experience of ancient Christian communities in adapting to new situations, says Jinkins in The Church Transforming: What’s Next for the Reformed Project? We are defined by our history as innovative as we participate in God’s making of all things new.

Christ-based innovation is also a way of making sense of the mission of the Apostle Paul. Hallmarks of his ministry were the forming of multiple, diverse Christian communities. For Paul, this was innovation and was always coupled with risk. Paul wrote of how his Christ-based innovation risked the appearance of foolishness with the potential to upend religious, political and economic conventions of wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20-25; 3:18-23). To proclaim Jesus is Lord, meant Caesar was not. To proclaim a crucified saviour was to upend power and religious control and break retributive cycles of violence. To proclaim a Risen Lord with a life now poured out for all who would receive him was to re-order social relations, Jew and Gentile, women and men, slave and free. Innovation was a risky venture as it challenged established cultural patterns.

It was also a risky venture because it challenged established church ways. We see this as Peter met Cornelius (Acts 10) and Paul met Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). The risks echo through history, as Luther, Calvin and Knox met the established church. Today, much of our Presbyterian polity is designed to protect the gains made by earlier eras of innovation, particularly the new impetus that resulted from the Reformation innovations. However in consolidating gains of the past, we can become closed to ongoing attempts to respond to the call of Christ making all things new. We show favour to what we already know over the unknown, uncertain and unconventional.

We need to own as Presbyterian churches that innovation and those risking a new thing will be misunderstood. It will feel like they are challenging the status quo. They will not meet people’s current expectations. They will risk being isolated and left to carry things alone. They will risk exposure, unfair criticism and potentially the shame of apparent lack of success.

So if we are to be churches that create conditions for the risk of Christ-based innovations, we will need to lay hold of another of our great Reformed hallmarks, that of grace. Overflowing grace along with risk is at the heart of innovating. We are always in grace, for Christ-based innovation is birthed out of gifts given and received.

Grace for innovation givers involves the freedom to try new things and be generous when there is stumbling. This includes being supportive with compliments and ready to revise metrics about success and progress.

Grace for innovation receivers includes being faithful stewards of the gifts of generosity, freedom and support. It will mean reporting on progress and sharing stories of what God is up to in the midst of innovation.

In the grace of risk and innovation, givers and receivers will find themselves as disciples, learning to draw from the experiences of ancient communities, like Paul and the Reformers, in the making of all things new.

Mark Johnston and Steve Taylor, KCML

Posted by steve at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

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