Innovation and Contagiousness...

For too many of my Christ-following years I've lived in Christian community with unspoken and unwritten values that few could articulate and fewer still demonstrate.

It is a powerful church that possesses a collective and communal spirit of shared values. They are the body that not only lives with purpose, but with poise.

And this is what we want to take a moment to rehearse…the values that give poise to our purpose…we can be missional, but if we are not meaningful…we are wasting our lives away.

The values of our church are quite conveniently found in the form of an acrostic…







In the Latin language, they had a certain phrase that spoke of the power of creating a culture of strong values. They called it a…

genius loci - spirit of place - The unique, distinctive aspects or atmosphere of a place, such as those celebrated in art, stories, folk tales, and festivals. Originally, the genius loci was literally the protective spirit of a place, a creature usually depicted as a snake.

Our first two values are: Innovation and Contagiousness…two values that are closely related in their essence, because an innovative body soon becomes a contagious and infectious presence in the world.

It speaks of this in the book "Carpe Manana" – Seize the Future.

The teaser on the back cover spoke eloquently of why this kind of innovative spirit is critical to the churches survival in the coming years…

“While the church dreams of old wineskins, the future is arriving, and the world around us has undergone a radical transformation. Those of us over thirty are no longer natives of a modern culture, but immigrants in a postmodern society that speaks the language of cyberspace, grapples with the implications of robotics, nanotechnology, and bioengineering, and looks everywhere but to the church for spiritual and moral guidance.

But the gospel sun, far from setting, is poised to shine on this new frontier--provided we’ll seize tomorrow and its unprecedented opportunities. The possibilities are limitless for those of us who choose to live as Jesus lived, as people of our time and culture.

The world is hungry to encounter a Church who knows its soul, speaks its language, and loves it with an all-transforming love.”

Jesus deeply cared about knowing the world’s soul, it’s language and meeting it with an all-transforming love…

This is why innovation and contagiousness were wired into the recruitment and deployment of his disciples. Listen to Jesus as he launched his disciples into the mission field. His metaphors speak of his ingenious philosophy of ministry…

Matt. 10:16 - I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Jesus is talking to His disciples here. He’s sending them out alone for one of the first times. I love the way it’s rendered in the Message Paraphrase Bible:

Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack. So be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove” (MSG)

The word here “shrewd” is the Greek word “phronimos” which is defined as … “artful, thoughtful, sagacious”

Some translations have used the word “Cunning” - Marked by or given to artful subtlety. Executed with or exhibiting ingenuity.

The word “Shrewd” is defined in Webster’s dictionary as follows – “Characterized by keen awareness, sharp intelligence, and often a sense of the practical. Disposed to artful and cunning practices; tricky.”

artful, crafty, scheming, sharp, sly, tricky, wily”….do any of these words strike you as almost counter-Christian. They didn’t settle any better in the religious culture of Jesus’ day.


Jesus had to know that employing the phrase “Shrewd as a Snake” would evoke a response of confusion, for this was the exact description of Satan in the Garden of Eden when he artfully and cunningly tempted Eve. “The snake was more cunning than all the other creatures that God had made…” This is probably why the church suffers a great deal of criticism when it seeks to be on the cutting edge of culture. It is seen as a worldly enterprise, even diabolical to some.

But this is the kind of life that Jesus effortlessly and altruistically lived when he walked this earth as a sinless entrepreneur.


Jesus ministry –

*Parables (stories) – “the kingdom of heaven is like…”

*Provocative Language – “Eat my flesh drink my blood”, “strain a gnat, swallow a camel”, “if your hand offends you, cut it off.” “if you offend a child, it is better to have a milestone tied to your neck and be thrown into the sea”, “you must hate your father and mother, and even your own life in order to follow me.”

*Visual Aids (metaphors)

Jesus making mud out of spit… (wholly beside the point.)

Jesus writing on ground with his finger (Why did he do this?)

Casting the demons into a herd of pigs. (Who paid for it?)

His Disciples breaking through roof. (Who paid for it?)

Instead of being predictable, Jesus was provocative.

The benefit of being provocative is that instead of strictly answering questions or asking them for that matter…you’re arousing them…causing them. What has happened to this communicative art form?

He loved piquing people curiosity and whetting their appetites with bizarre behavior.

You see, Curiosity might kill the cat, but feeds the Human Soul.

I really believe that the reason why Jesus functioned with these sorts of stunts was because he was trying to make the truth meaningful and memorable for a change. He didn’t want to be forgettable. (Simon on American Idol… "it was good but forgettable…it was utterly karaoke.”)

Jesus didn’t want to be religiously karaoke. He knew, as C.S. Lewis so brilliantly discovered that…

Reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. - C.S. Lewis

Innovation is laboring to bring imagination to information…it’s a culture that cares about both “Meaning and Truth.” Making the truth meaningful.

That is why there is dogma and data…but it only makes a lasting impact in life when coupled with drama (that is, story, life, narrative found in the textures of one’s personal culture).

And innovation is an emphasis that focuses on both Scripture & Culture – because the world is saying to the church in a thousand ways…“If you don’t care about my culture, I don’t care about your scripture. If you don’t care about my world, I don’t care about your world.” It’s actually very logical and rational thinking.

And this is what got Jesus killed lest we forget. He was seen as scandalous because he didn’t set himself apart enough from Middle-Eastern culture and customs. He didn’t separate from society, isolating himself from the messy masses. He entered their language, their customs, their limitations and their cultural norms. Why should we function any differently?


This is what I love about watching Jesus interact and intermingle with people…The truth finally made sense!!! It resonated with people. It wasn’t irrelevant and boring.

You see, Boredom guts belief. Christian Conviction is bolstered by piqued curiosity.

Boredom flourishes when you feel too safe. It's largely a symptom of security. ~Eugene Inesco

For some reason, Born Again Christians turn into Bored-Again Christians and the Church is anything but fantastic…it’s yawntastic.

When the church doesn’t start to think innovatively and imaginatively it starts to become monotonous…

And when Monotony becomes the familiar norm, the message becomes Monotone Same things, same look, same ole’ same ole’, same message, same order, same faces, same ideas, same rituals, same antics, same shenanigans.

You would think the Bible said…

You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you bored.

If the Son has made you bored, you will be bored indeed!

The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is boredom.

God is boring, and those who worship him must worship in boredom and monotony.

It is for boredom that Christ has made us bored.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have an everboring life.

But it isn’t the everyboring life…it’s supposed to be the everlasting life…and a contagious, infectious life at that!

Contagious was what the church was know for in the early years of it’s formation:

Acts 6:7
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 12:24
But the word of God continued to increase and spread.

Acts 13:49
The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.

Acts 19:20
In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

HMMMM…I wonder why? Maybe cause they learned from the best. The cultural architect himself. The trend setter, the savvy futurist, the entrepreneurial genius of his day…Jesus Christ!

In his book, The Anointing, R.T. Kendall says, “The greatest opposition to what God is doing today comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God was doing yesterday.”

In the words of George McLeod: 

The cross must be raised against at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town garbage heap, at a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. At the kind of place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble, because that is where He died and that is what He died about, and that is where churchmen ought to be and what churchmen ought be about.

In his book, In Their Time, Anthony Mayo profiles the greatest leaders of the 20th century. The leaders lived in different eras, worked in different industries and faced different challenges, but the authors found one common denominator amongst all successful leaders: contextual intelligence. That is…

“They possessed acute sensitivity to the social, political, technological, and demographic contexts that came to define their eras.”

They were like the Men of Issachar in I Chronicles 12:32 who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.


May it be said of our churches that “we as a church body understood our times, and knew what we should do as a relevant response to the customs of our culture bringing the gospel in innovative and imaginative forms to a world in need of something real, something true, something meaningful.”

We want to be known as Innovative people, not just an innovative church. We want to be a contagious people, not just a contagious church. These are two of our hallmark values and we want them to permeate our every activity in society.

This must be our …

genius loci – our spirit of place - The unique, distinctive aspects or atmosphere of this place, such as those celebrated in art, stories, folk tales, and festivals. Our “protective spirit”.


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