“Innovation is Christian when it is ultimately aligned with God’s purposes and methods.” - Gary W. Oster, Christian Innovation Descending into the Abyss of Light
Innovation is often associated with Silicon Valley and the rise of the modern industrial age. Images of innovation show bright white spaces and minimalist offices of tech companies in urban centers around the world. Yet where is innovation less imagined? In the Church.
Innovation is often not even part of our faith conversations. Like so many topics we associate with work, innovation seems relegated to the perceived secular, rather than spiritual, spaces of our Western lives. Merriam-Webster defines the concept as the introduction of something new, like an idea, method, or device. In general, most people refer to innovation while speaking about technology or business.
But while we may not find this exact word in Scripture, the Bible is packed with examples of innovation. From God forming the earth out of nothing (Genesis 1) to Solomon building the temple (1 Kings 6) and the counter-cultural lifestyle of the early Church (Acts 2), God has been calling his people to introduce new—often disruptive—ideas and ways of living for thousands of years.
In Jeremiah 29:7, the prophet Jeremiah addresses the people of Judah living in exile in Babylon, a nation not following the Lord, and instructs them to “… seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” So even in exile, in a secular place where few worshipped God, He called His followers to use their skills and talents to seek flourishing not just for themselves but also for those around them. And as they did, reflecting their Creator, they were a witness to their communities. Reflecting on our role in today’s culture, theologian J.I. Packer wrote: “The Christian’s life in all its aspects—intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness—is supernatural.”
Innovation—using our gifts and talents to bring about new ideas and way of thinking and working—is not just the preoccupation of a select group of thinkers outside the walls of the Church. Innovation should be intricately woven into our spiritual lives in Christ. As Charles Spurgeon said, “To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred.”