As leaders we’ve been told that we need to remove ourselves from the minutiae of the details and position ourselves at 30,000 feet, gaining the vantage point a true leader should have as they look at the world around them. Flying any lower would take away the advantage that the bird’s-eye angle brings us as leaders.
I’d like to propose something different.
No, I’m not proposing that we should lose altitude. As a matter of fact, I want you to consider that maybe you are not flying high enough.
You see, the higher your fly, the more that you can see and the more context you get.
Sure, you might lose sight of certain details, but the understanding of the bigger context that you gain may outweigh the loss that you’ll experience.
I have come to believe that God is calling us even higher as leaders, to gain visibility on things we couldn’t see before, to provide us with context crucial to understand how to position ourselves in our generation.
In Isaiah 46: 9-10 God declares something that provides us with insight to gain the ultimate bird’s-eye perspective, needed in order to lead effectively!
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’
As (church) leaders we tend to believe that we as a generation are the center of the universe, that both the past and future gravitate around us as the epicenter. The world revolves around us.
This is far from the truth.
When God declared “the end from the beginning” and “what is still to come,” He wasn’t just thinking about us.
God doesn’t limit Himself to an isolated segment in time, a generation, but rather looks at human history as a whole. In His view our generation is merely a link in a chain of events that pushes creation to the end.
You see, there are things that are “still to come” for each generation to do. It’s each generation’s purpose to manifest new things that will bring us closer to the end. It’s our responsibility as leaders to recognize what those things are and to lead our generation to manifest those things in context of who we are in history.
The Word that has been declared from the beginning pushes creation forward consistently, as an invisible force, into new things that are not yet done. God’s spoken word pushes creation forward all the time into new things.
We can’t escape it. We must yield to it as leaders! What we will leave behind must be different from what we inherited.
The only way to see who we are supposed to be is to fly higher—higher, not to just see what we are to accomplish in our lifetime, but more importantly, who we are in history and what role we ought to play in manifesting the things declared from the beginning.
Gaining a higher altitude will inevitably provide us with a perspective that will show us both the need as well as a roadmap to innovate in our lifetime rather than maintain (and many times strengthen) the status quo.
Our only option is to innovate!
Once you come to peace with the fact that innovation is our only option, you’ll start seeing the concept throughout the Bible over and over again.
Let’s break this down the word “innovate.” According to Webster’s dictionary, it means:
We are called to introduce something new in our generation—something that has never been done before.
Our biggest enemy? The old!
Isaiah says it like this in chapter 43:18-19:
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The old tends to precondition our minds to keep us from the new that God wants to do in our generation. The old is often good. Why leave it behind in pursuit of something else?
Innovation requires us to forget those former things and focus on the new thing that God wants to do in our lifetime.
Just because we inherited our world from generations past who innovated in their time doesn’t mean we’re exempt from the responsibility to innovate ourselves in our generation.
Most leaders agree with the concept of innovation. However, true innovation isn’t easy. We often pretend to innovate while in reality we are merely adapting to new circumstances or optimizing within an existing structure. While adaptation and optimization may create the illusion of innovation, we need to understand the difference in order to be effective as leaders.
We’ve seen a lot of this in 2020. Circumstances change and force us to do something different, not by choice, but because we can no longer do what we used to do in the past. We simply adapt to what we call the “new normal” in order to survive in the new climate.
This cannot be confused with true innovation. If anything, adaptation is the same thing we’ve always done, just a different version of the same thing.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic we’ve seen a lot of churches adapt. They continued to do the same thing they had been doing all along, just an online version of it—the same worship set, the same preaching, the same venue, with nobody in the pews.
Adaptation isn’t moving the needle of history forward. Nobody is going to look back 100 years from now and remember how awesome it was when we preached the same sermons over the internet in front of an empty auditorium.
In the big picture of history nobody is going to care!
In the big picture of history, it was just another expression of the same thing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we have to adapt to circumstances. Being agile enough to do so when the context changes is important to the survival of the organization. However, adaptation will never make it into the history books.
Where adaptation shifts us horizontally to a different context, optimization pushes us to a level of excellence within an existing context. It has everything to do with improvement within a current position.
In other words, optimization only happens within a context that already exists. Yes, change is required to optimize, but not the type of change that is required to innovate. Change in the context of optimization is vertical. It has everything to do with accomplishing marginal improvement within an existing structure, such as better communication, better software, better programming, better resources, better facilities and better infrastructure to do what you are currently doing.
Optimization doesn’t have to be bad, until it becomes bad!
There was a reason God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle in the wilderness and not to build a temple. Sure, a temple would have been much nicer than a tent, but it would have kept them from one thing: progress!
When you stay to long in a God-given season, that season will ultimately enslave you! Optimization has the ability to do just that. It’s great to strive for excellence, unless excellence keeps you from moving forward.
God’s people were sent to Egypt by divine instruction so that they could escape a famine. It was a true blessing. However, when they established themselves into that God-given place, they “optimized” their lifestyles while Egypt slowly became their limitation, keeping them from moving forward.
Even though optimization can be good, it has the potential to strengthen the status quo while keeping us in bondage to the past.
Innovation doesn't just happen. It requires courage and true leadership. Innovation happens when we put everything at risk for what has never been done before—something new!
To acquire the type of vision that causes true innovation, we need to fly high—high enough to see the things that are not yet done, so that we can make them happen in our generation.
Innovation happens at the edge of chaos!
It happens where developed land stops, and undeveloped land—chaos—starts. It only happens where chaos is cultivated into new opportunities that will advance the Kingdom into places it couldn’t get to before.
Remember, the very definition of innovation is “the introduction of something new.”
The “new” will inevitably disrupt the status quo and will ultimately find a pathway to turn chaos into cultivated land where its environment will flourish.
Don’t be deceived. It doesn’t stop here. This newly cultivated land has the ability to turn into the status quo of tomorrow and potentially keep the next generation from innovating.
However, let’s brave the edge of chaos in our time and let’s manifest something new that the history books will look back on as remarkable.
Innovation is our only option!
This article was extracted from Issue 3 (Fall 2020) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.
Martijn van Tilborgh is the co-founder of AVAIL, a strategic-marketing architect and a consultant for numerous large organizations and influencers. He is also a minister, author and speaker as well as a serial entrepreneur. Martijn’s passion to innovate and see God’s plan unfold in people’s lives inspired him to create several successful companies including Four Rivers Media, Kudu Publishing, Dream Releaser Enterprises and The Leverage Group.
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