As a global family of church planting churches, Acts 29 is consciously identified by three characteristics: theological clarity, cultural engagement and missional innovation. I will reflect on the third of these in a series of three blog entries. The first will be an introduction to movement and innovation and how we might learn from the technological revolutions of the last 100 years. The second will focus on two vital components necessary for any sort of innovation and the third will close by focusing on lessons learned from the world of technology and there are parallels in missional church planting.
Do not despise the day of small beginnings…
Every so often in history leaders, people, ideas and circumstances come together and dramatic changes take place. Ways of living, perspectives on reality and even our understanding of ourselves are profoundly impacted. We call these convergences of people and ideas, “movements.” Every movement displays an interconnected nature as certain ideas coalesce into shared passion and joint action for change. Many times movements are marked by innovation, new ways of thinking and acting as human beings. At times innovations are seen as bursting forth out of nowhere, or as sudden awakenings, yet many historical events build successively into movements. The cumulative action of many leaders and ideas evolve forward or build like a wave crashing upon a seashore with powerful momentum. It is often said that today’s leaders stand on the shoulders of giants; we know this to be true. What is prevalent today was influenced by what came before as the interconnected nature of people and ideas moves us in one direction or another.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the technological movements of the last 100 years and I’ve read four books to that end. My undergraduate education was in science and technology and I enjoy histories in that area of human work and inquiry. The first work was entitled The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner which focused on the history of Bell Laboratories and its various communication inventions that led into the modern information revolution. The transistor arguably the most important of the technologies that emerged there in the twentieth century. Next up was When Computing Got Personal: A History of the Desktop Computer by Matthew Nicholson, a work on the history of the desktop computer from it’s very earliest forms until some of the recent sizes and shapes we see today. After this came Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet by Katie Hafner. A fascinating read on the invention of this most important of computer networks through the combined efforts of industry, government and academia. I finally finished up with Moore’s Law: The Life of Gordon Moore, Silicon Valley’s Quiet Revolutionary by Thackray, Brock and Jones. Moore is an unassuming titan of what became our modern Silicon Valley and one of the chief inventors of silicon semi-conductor technology. He was one of the founders of what became the tech juggernaut known as Intel. Incidentally, an Intel chip is currently humming along inside my laptop as I type these words.
In my reading I observed that time and time again there was an interconnection between ideas that lead to innovation. Technology built upon the gains of the past and the previous generation’s hard work, problem solving and creative thinking. The innovation that took place in our technological revolutions was not in any way magic. It took place under certain cultural and structural circumstances that made the movement possible. I will outline a few of these in the final section of this essay below. Because innovation is innovation wherever and whenever and whyever it happens, my study of technological innovation showed that there is much to be gleaned from it for the innovation needed in gospel mission in every generation.
But innovation happens and flourishes within necessary restrictions and freedoms. It is not anarchic. This is the theme for the second post, under the header Context for Innovation. The third post will establish some parallels between technological innovation and missional innovation for church planting movements and issue what should be a joyful call to action.