Embedding Innovation at the Core of Your Organization Part 3 ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Embedding Innovation at the Core of Your Organization Part 3

In my previous posts Part 1 and Part 2, I've been writing about innovation as a core organizational competency and about creating an "innovation pipeline." Today in the final part of the series, I want to focus on what I discovered through my research in one congregation -- Mosaic in Los Angeles. Here is part 3 of 3 on innovation and congregation.

Creating a Change-Friendly Church Culture

There's a great discussion about the relationship between innovation and tradition among contemporary church leaders. Could change-orientation be a legitimate aspect to congregations?

In my research, I've found that for many evangelicals innovation is not an inconvenient "extra" to ministry but actively developed a core competency in their churches. I will write more about that in my final post in this three-part series.

Negotiating a Theology of Change

The pastor of Mosiac, Erwin McManus, wrote in his first book that the spiritual life of human beings is about change. He writes,

The whole theological concept of sanctification is rooted in the reality that God changes people. Repentance is change, conversion is change, regeneration is change, transformation is change, and sanctification is change. All of the deeply theological constructs that we have embraced and understand to be true cannot exist outside of a theology of change.
And again,
If you don’t like change, you’d better not become a Christian. Once you belong to Jesus, change is inevitable. Our whole Christian experience is an experience of change.
The life of a dedicated follower of Jesus is full of change, and the best changes are the ones that followers initiate in pursuit of God’s mission.

The theme of personal change in pursuit of divine potential is so important to Erwin that it is the subject of Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul (2003) and Chasing Daylight.

The Praxis of Mission

To understand the theological framework of the church one must first grasp that the root theological impulse at Mosaic is missiology. In our conversations, Pastor Erwin said very simply: “Mission shapes theology.”

For Erwin, maturity is found in missionary praxis. His theology paints a picture of a creative, catalytic God who calls out creative, catalytic leaders to nurture creative, catalytic teams in pursuit of global evangelization. His theology seeks to affirm the unique, creative contributions of individuals while also catalyzing leaders who will cultivate intentional communities that purposefully engage culture for the sake of mission.

The church cultivates an expanding membership committed to do whatever is necessary to serve people outside of the church and be relevant to the dominant culture.

Culture of Creativity and Change

Active experimentation became a pervasive aspect of Mosaic with the coming of Pastor Erwin.

Active experimentation keeps the organization pliable toward doing whatever is needed to fulfill the mission of the church in ever changing circumstances. The ability to keep the organization pliable is dependent on the ability to keep members pliable.

For Kevin, pliability means “that you’re willing to change, that you’re willing to take on radical new things and move in completely different directions just in order to follow Jesus.” The phrase “in order to follow Jesus” is important. People introduce change personally and corporately out of a sense of God’s initiation in pursuit of a particular direction.

One area of constant experimentation is in the arts. New arenas for dance, the visual graphics, and music provide opportunities to deeply connect as they pursue creative projects in support of church goals. Samantha explained her commitment to Mosaic, saying, “There were so many artists at Mosaic that were Christians, and I never knew that before.” Mandy, active in the film industry, talked about when she first came to Mosaic:
I saw there were a lot of different people working in the industry that were part of Mosaic. I saw that there was a lead pastor, Pastor Erwin, that basically was saying creativity is the natural form of spirituality. He was encouraging the artists.
People frequently mention a sense of empowerment and camaraderie through corporate activity in the congregation.

Not only are creative, “edgy” endeavors in media and creative arts embraced, but also the atmosphere of working together toward change that would impact history. Mike told me, “I feel I’m joining hands with everyone to impact culture, to impact the world. It’s big.” Kevin admits, “Part of me just gets so excited to think that a small group of people who are determined can actually change the world.”

Introducing the Catalytic Leader

In change-oriented systems like Mosaic, innovators are not only welcome but given influence. According to Mandy, “Mosaic says, ‘Yes, be creative.’ I’ve never been to a church that said, ‘Be creative; think of ideas....’ It’s crazy.” A new person at Mosaic who had just started a film production company said to me, “We’re all dreamers around here.” Another respondent added, “Hey, we want to change things. We want to make things radical. We want to make things different.”

Catalysts are the most action-oriented leadership role at Mosaic, expressing urgency for evangelistic outreach. They solve problems and seek opportunities for outreach with a practical result that the church grows. Catalysts are those most explicitly affirmed, given influence, and held out as models for others.

Two core questions draw out catalytic leaders: 1) “What is your passion?”, and 2) “Will you fix it?” Asking people what their passions are, Mosaic seeks to draw out enthusiastic leaders who sacrificially give themselves to pursuing their dreams and, simultaneously, accomplish the mission of the church. Overall, initiative and resourcefulness in pursuit of a passion is rewarded at Mosaic.

Mosaic also prompts catalytic leadership by asking, “Will you fix it?” At Mosaic, every imperfection is an invitation for participation. When someone suggests something, they are invited to take responsibility and make it happen. “Maybe God is calling you to do that,” is the comment. So, Mosaic members have a sense that problems are not the fault of leadership but rather the failure of people in the congregation to “step up” to the need.

Hope You Enjoyed this Series

This series, Embedding Innovation at the Core of Your Organization, is only intended to get us thinking about possible ways in which innovation and congregation can be connected.

I'm interested in hearing about innovations found in congregations out there.

This final post should be read with the previous ones, titled Embedding Innovation at the Core of Your Organization Part 1 and Embedding Innovation at the Core of Your Organization Part 2.


Nick said...

Hey Gerardo I have a question that I thought of while reading this entry.

Wouldn't your theology shape your mission? (I think you said Erwin sees these as reversed?)

It would seem what you believe shapes your convictions and what you do, right?

Maybe Erwin is saying this but in a different way?

Maybe you know this? Maybe I am saying the same thing you are?

Thank you for all of your blogs. I love reading them. Shawn and I like to talk about them...they get us thinking for sure.

Thanks again.

Gerardo Marti said...

Hey Nick,

The ministry of Mosaic is trying to make a point that the church should be about action and purpose rather than just knowledge. It takes a more expansive view of theology.

When you read more of McManus's books and hear him speak, I think this becomes much clearer than the brief quotes I included here.

Nick said...

Ah got it. I was thinking more on a Theology/wisdom/knowledge/truth level(whatever you want to call it) leads to conviction which leads to mission.

Does this make sense? My heart is not to say it is all in the head. My heart was to say you read scripture, it shapes your belief/theology, and then you respond to conviction by what Gods word says and as a result you gain mission or you become missional.

Thanks for the quick reply Gerardo!