Innovation is an important part of anything that wants to grow. The word has caught a lot of flack in Christian circles because we saw where some innovations had split the church or taken things off course. It is important that we are all taking seriously the church we find in the New Testament and need to make sure that we are embodying the same message and mission as those who walked and talked with Jesus did. But not every decision we have to make is clearly laid out in scripture. This is not a new situation we are in but an ancient one. Innovation in the church is nothing new. It sounds ironic but it is true. The early church had to innovate. Not everything they did was directly handed to them by God, chiseled on tablets are spoken of in prophesy. Consider a couple of examples…
Example 1 – Judas’ Replacement
In Acts 1 Peter realized that Judas needed to be replaced. His recognition of the need for replacement was based on scripture as he cited Psalm 109:8 for his rationale (Acts 1:20). What was not laid out in scripture was the qualifications for his replacement. They decided the new apostle was to have been with them from Jesus’ baptism onward and a witness of the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22). It was also not told to them in scripture how the man was to be chosen. They developed a procedure of nomination and casting lots to determine Judas’ replacement (Acts 1:23-26).
Example 2 – The Choosing of the Seven
As the church grew the responsibilities and needs grew as well. The apostles could only be stretched so thin. When it came to their attention that certain widows were not being attended to they came up with a plan to choose seven men who were to be full of the Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:1-7). There was no prophesy turned to. Something had to be done and they turned it over to others. It allowed the apostles to do what they thought was most important and what is more the church actually grew as a result of this delegation and releasing of these capable men to meet a need.
My point is not that every single decision calls for innovation. There are clearly some things that we don’t need to go around and change just to change. But we do have biblical precedent to have the leeway to make prayerful and wise decisions in areas that call for the creativity, wisdom and humility of people who love God and are called according to His purpose. Innovation is frowned on in some circles because the call is to only do those things which have biblical precedent when the reality is that there is biblical precedent for innovation. The main thing is that we aren’t out to innovate to make things into the church of Matt or the church of Steve or the church of Sue. We are making decisions in order to advance the cause of Christ and that is done through submission, prayer, and studying the scripture to make sure the things we do are in line with godly priorities and purposes.