Innovation

I’m twenty-seven. Pretty much right at the front end of the millennial generation. Now though we millennials are a very diverse group, something I hear about us all the time is that we are innovative. Apparently there are entire conferences out there dedicated to celebrating millennials’ entrepreneurship and innovation. I’ve never been to one of these things. Honestly, I can imagine hating it. But I am a big believer in innovation. Not the kind of ignorant innovation that ignores rich traditions and basic historical facts, but the kind of critical thinking that understands root problems and moves decisively to address them. Bold innovation that is risky, that fails, that gets dirty, but keeps trying again and again.

 

Innovation has always been a part of the church. The alphabet for modern Russian and other Slavic languages was the innovation of missionaries. Cyril (hence Cyrillic script) and Methodius showed up in the 9th century and there was no written language. So they made it up! They innovated.

 

For our part, InFaith has been involved in innovation in the church since our very beginning. We began as the American Sunday School Union. We formed after a Philadelphia bishop visited England in the late 1700s. There he saw an incredible innovation led by Robert Raikes. Raikes was teaching children, who were working in factories six days a week, how to read. They met on Sundays and Raikes called his school, Sunday School. This innovation was a part of the development of public school systems in England and the U.S. People of the church saw a need, moved decisively to meet the need, and introduced a new idea. They innovated.

 

The very fact that we have had three names in our history suggests that InFaith is not afraid of innovation. We have lasted for 200 years because we have realized the importance of adaptation and change. This is why relevance is an important ministry essential for us. And this is what we are looking for in people who want to join us. We seek to enable people to serve wherever they are. We do this because we believe that mission is inherently local. We also believe that it is those people who are in local places that will best know how to bear witness to the reality of God’s kingdom and redemption through the Son. Local people know best how to innovate.

 

Innovation is not some cool new “trendy” addendum that millennials are trying to bring to the gospel. Innovation is at the very heart of the gospel. The gospel is a call to radical change. The gospel, the Good News, is that God meets us wherever we are, and God calls us to radical change. This is why prominent missiologists Stephen B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder define mission as prophetic dialogue: “Mission is dialogue. It takes people where they are; it is open to their traditions and culture and experience… But it is prophetic dialogue because it calls people beyond; it calls people to conversion…”

 

What would happen if called and committed followers of Christ stepped forward to address some of the greatest problems we see around us? What if Christians were leading new efforts to make our cities safer so that fewer kids were left dead on the streets and fewer cities were torn apart because of racial and economic differences? What if we had men and women working to revive our tired and dwindling rural communities that are being devastated by drugs, hopelessness and dysfunction? What if Christians were setting new examples for public discourse on politics, instead of just joining a side in the culture wars?

 

What if we saw Christians starting new ministries to achieve these goals? Have you ever heard about a minister of the gospel who is working to help politicians actually debate real problems in real ways? I haven’t. But if that’s something you feel called to do and are committed to doing it with a family of other people ministering the gospel in other ways, then let’s do it! InFaith doesn’t want to go around setting up puppet ministries where the same model, same workbook, even the same words are sued to say the same thing on the same night of the same week. We want to see innovation.

 

Contact us at hello@infaith.org if you want to do innovative mission in the U.S. Maybe InFaith is the perfect place for you.