By Jason D. Bland, founder of Signet Leadership.
The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.Proverbs 12:24, NKJV
What is diligence? It can be defined as careful and persistent work. What about innovation? It can be defined as the process of finding new methods, ideas or solutions. The combination of the two has everything to do with good Christian leadership.
Over the course of my career as a military officer and business operations leader, and now as a leadership coach and consultant, I have seen similarities between church leadership and business leadership, and one is a failure to diligently innovate. Innovation is an organization’s life-blood, and so churches and business organizations need to be intentional about it. James Canton has said that innovation is an organization’s “chief competitive advantage: embrace it and thrive; resist it and perish.”
Solomon’s wise words in Proverbs 12:24 highlight the need for believers to remain diligent. Christians are to work hard, and not be lazy. This clearly aligns with the Lord’s original plan as explained in Genesis 2:15: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (NKJV). This wasn’t a curse. It was a heavenly appointment to accomplish work worthy of man’s effort, not as punishment, but as a fulfilling reward for man’s time and energy.
If we have been called to work and serve him, that should be a continual effort. Laziness is not allowed. This is reiterated in Colossians 3:23-24: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance” (NKJV).
This biblical perspective should lead us to consider work as something not only God-centered, but eschatological. We are also called to rest, but while we are working, every ounce of effort should be focused on accomplishing what God has called us to do before Christ’s return. This leads to both a consistently Christ-centered work-life and a Christ-centered testimony among people within your sphere of influence, both believers and non-believers alike.
With this eschatological diligence at the heart of Christian thought, it should be natural to continually seek innovation throughout the course of your work. This is necessary for pastors, businesses, the trades, science, engineering, construction, medicine and every other sector. Christian leaders, no matter what profession or field, should seek to be on the cutting edge of innovation. Simply put, innovation in work must be as commonplace as breathing.
Innovative organizations can have a far bigger impact on the lives of team members, customers, students, congregants, patients, etc. This results in Christians changing and impacting communities instead of the church, as a whole, accommodating itself to its secular expectations and succumbing to non-biblical cultural norms. Put another way, Christians, as diligent workers, should be seeking innovative ways to work so as to set the example for all people to follow. What a wonderful testimony this would be for both the believer and non-believer alike to witness the success and amazing achievements of a Christ-filled leader who is diligently innovating, and leading from the forefront of their field.
Those in church leadership may respond: “Innovation? The Bible doesn’t change.” That is true enough, but it doesn’t diminish the need for diligent, eschatological-minded leaders. Those in both clerical and lay positions need to be curious, challenge assumptions, ask questions, try new things, be willing to fail, investigate trends, enable positive change, adapt to new circumstances, and be willing to learn. Innovation is necessary to ensure leaders and their organizations are successful.
Fortunately, there are tools to facilitate innovation within the church and business world. Strategic foresight sessions can help determine the path of the organization, identify key challenges, begin to outline preparatory steps, and name critical resources. There are creativity exercises such as mind-mapping, where you identify as many aspects of a challenge as possible, breaking the problem down into its component parts until you’ve identified what’s possible for change and innovation. Coaches like myself can facilitate these activities and help bring clarity to your thinking. Often I’ve found that clients in both the church and business world simply need to have someone listen, and ask questions to generate innovative thinking and momentum.
Time is quickly moving, and it is incumbent upon Christian leaders to be diligent in their work, and that includes innovating. Leaders need to constantly consider not only what is, but what could be, what’s possible, and how you want to get there. It is here in the unknown, through diligent exploration, that true innovation will occur.