(Note: This article is a summary of a 6-month discussion about Kingdom Innovation between Jon Hirst and Dr. J.D. Payne that has been documented in a series of six videos available at www.Kingdominnovation.info.)
What really happens when you add the word “kingdom” to a common practice? Does crowning it a kingdom activity somehow make it more holy or righteous simply through its classification? If a kingdom activity is to be truly different, it can’t simply be a matter of what it is called.
But what makes something a “kingdom something”? Are there certain characteristics or practices that set it apart?
We believe there are. And by understanding these characteristics, we can approach our work in that area in a way that aligns us with God and his great mission.
Three things come to mind.
First, kingdom work has a clear understanding of the mission at hand. Chris Wright describes mission as “Our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation.”
Second, kingdom work is defined by holy living. It is not enough to do the right thing; kingdom work requires that we do the right thing for the right reasons.
Third, kingdom work is propelled by the Spirit. We cannot do kingdom work without the Holy Spirit’s power and provision.
This is why grace is so critical. We cannot perform to the standards of kingdom activities. Instead, we must submit our desire to be on mission and our commitment to holy living in submission to the Holy Spirit’s power.
Over the past six months we have been on a journey to explore the concept of “Kingdom Innovation.” We took this topic on with trepidation, knowing how cliché it has become to add the word “kingdom” to various worldly disciplines. At the same time, we truly believe that innovation done for the kingdom will look different than innovation done by the world’s standards.
As we went on this journey, we learned several key lessons:
Kingdom Innovation is very practical but never gives in to pragmatism.
The kingdom is committed to “fresh thinking that creates value” (Richard Lyon’s definition of innovation). We see in many biblical leaders such as Moses, Caleb, David, Solomon, Nehemiah, Jesus’ disciples, and Paul try new things for the express purpose of bringing the kingdom close and helping God’s people to see why it should be the source of people’s hope and strength rather than the world.
The example of cities of refuge in Numbers 35 is an example of God creating a creative and practical approach to providing justice for those accused of a crime in a time where “an eye for an eye” was the expectation.
Kingdom Innovation is a matter of stewardship.
As kingdom citizens, we desire to be faithful with our resources, abilities, talents, finances, interests, and opportunities for the glory of God among the nations.
This means that we must be bringing new ideas to our service to the King. The King deserves our most creative thinking, not simply rote following of what we have always done. Stewarding new thinking is part of showing the kingdom’s vibrancy and life-giving potential.
Jesus exemplified this when he sent out the 12 in Matthew 10 and then the 72 in Luke 10. He gave them the Holy Spirit in a new way that empowered them to do new kinds of ministry among the Jews who needed to hear about his coming.
Kingdom Innovation is a natural outcome of the Holy Spirit’s leadership in our lives.
Since Jesus is building his church and we are filled with a dynamic Spirit, then we should expect change and challenges as we make disciples of all nations.
While stability and routine are important, we must never attempt to make them King. Instead, we must be ready to rethink and change as the Holy Spirit guides. Spirit-guided innovation is seen throughout the Bible.
For example, Paul and Silas attempted to take the gospel into Asia Minor and then Bithynia, but the Spirit interrupted their strategy in Acts 16. It was after this interruption, that Paul received a vision of the Macedonian man and the team concluded that God had called the team to preach the gospel in that region. The city of Philippi was selected probably as a result of the team’s God-given wisdom to take the gospel to the most people in a place of significant influence.
Kingdom Innovation must be grounded in the Scriptures.
Kingdom innovation is different from the innovation in the corporate world. The church is not in the business of attempting to get a better product to market faster than the competitor down the street.
Kingdom innovation is governed by a kingdom ethic. The ends do not justify the means, servant leadership is critical, and the Spirit’s guidance is an absolute must. Paul challenges the Galatians in chapter 5 to embrace the freedom that comes from following Christ and highlights the Fruit of the Spirit that will be evident when we creatively step out in the freedom He gives us.
While Kingdom Innovation is different from the world’s understanding of innovation, all truth is God’s truth wherever it may be found.
Therefore, the church has much to learn from the world, when it comes to matters of innovation. However, she must be discerning and careful not to move beyond the boundaries of the kingdom ethic lest she end up looking more like corporate America than the Body of Christ.
A great example is David and Solomon’s work to build the Temple. In 1 Kings 5, we see Solomon seeking wood and stone from Lebanon to build the temple. He undoubtedly relied on the latest skills of artisans to acquire the resources for the Temple.
But when it came to building the Temple itself, Solomon followed the Lord’s direction to the letter. There was a place for the world’s wisdom but that did not replace God’s direction.
Innovative leaders must be humble, servant-leaders.
Teammates and the people they lead are not disposable. Kingdom leaders must be willing to listen to others, be transparent with their own limitations, and self-controlled to know when to say yes and no. They must be courageous and take wise, calculated risks.
They must be secure enough as leaders to try something new, aggressively evaluate their actions, revise their strategies, and then try again in light of new insights.
sAll of these traits were on display in Nehemiah’s leadership of Jerusalem’s wall rebuilding effort. While he was there to do a job, his leadership was framed around joining with the people and supporting those who were obediently committed to the work. That is evident in Nehemiah 2 where he says to them, “Let us start rebuilding.”
Innovative leaders are strategic thinkers and understand the importance of strategic planning.
They do not simply talk about accomplishing something in the future, they put action steps in place to work toward that desired accomplishment. Caleb exemplified this strategic thinking.
In Numbers 13, he challenged the people of Israel to act on the research that the spies had brought back on the Promised Land and, even after 40 years of waiting, in Joshua 14, he made his case again for the land that he had been promised. He heard God clearly and stayed focused on obeying that direction; no matter how long the wait.
By adding “kingdom” to the concept of innovation, it dramatically changes our practice of this discipline. When the kingdom innovates, we see creative reframing, practical obedience, Spirit-led decision-making, fruitful action, humble leadership, and faithful planning.
Will you choose to make innovation a “Kingdom something” in your life today?
To connect with Dr. J.D. Payne and Jon Hirst, visit www.kingdominnovation.info.