Why this discussion matters . . .
8 Helpful Insights
7 Moving Forward
Why this discussion matters . . .
The following observations come from Christensen’s theory when applied to the local church and ministries. Sometimes it is helpful to look at the familiar from a different perspective in order to better understand our own context. The Disruptive Innovation Theory provides a different perspective from which to evaluate our familiar circumstances. The same patterns observed in the business world can run parallel in churches also. Church leaders can fall into the same decision-making processes as business leaders. We’re all human and think, act, and react in predictable patterns.
Established organizations, such as churches and mainline denominations, can, and many times do, become stagnant and unresponsive to the world around them. According to Christensen’s theory, good organizations, such as churches, with good leaders can become unresponsive to the disruptive changes around them. This seems to happen when leaders either don’t recognize what is happening or simply just don’t respond.
Good leaders can feel that things have gone well in the past and seem to be currently, so no change is needed. Yet, when the external changes around an organization are greater than the internal changes, a significant problem exists. If adjustments are not made, the organization will fall out of touch with its surroundings as the external and internal change gap grows wider.
Helpful Insights . . .
Disruption helps us to see the underserved
It is easy to focus on those we are currently serving and overlook those who are currently unseen and underserved. Just like in business, church leaders too, choose to concentrate on the group they are currently serving when there is still a population segment around them that is underserved. This tendency can be true for all of us.
Disruption can be very useful
Researchers have found that a leader’s focus “on their existing customers becomes institutionalized in internal processes that make it difficult for even senior managers to shift investment to disruptive innovations.” In plain English, they gave little funding to new ideas because the old stable ideas paid the bills. Yet, a Disruptive Innovation maybe the next great idea to reach those who are unseen and underserved. When applied, this theory can give rise to creative solutions that need to be given serious consideration.
Disruption is not deconstruction
The established product, service or idea does not have to be dismantled before a disruptive innovation can be created. Disruptive Innovation is not a new pastor going into an established church and changing everything in a few short months. The established way of doing things does not have to be dismantled in order to develop a new innovation. Disruption does not seek to destroy what is already existing in order to be brought to life. When many people hear the term “disruptive innovation’ they typically think that the concept is seeking to destroy what is existing in order to do something new. An established product, service or idea can co-exist with a disruptive innovation.
Disruptive innovation and sustaining innovation can co-exist
In fact, both are needed. Sustaining Innovation is an improvement to what currently exists. Products, services or ideas can be improved to meet the needs of current clientele (sustaining innovation) while at the same time new products, services, or ideas can be developed (disruptive innovation). Both types of innovations help improve existing efforts to meet the needs of those being served.
Disruption typically begins with different patterns, plans or designs
Not every idea outside the normally accepted manner of doing ministry is bad. We should be open to new ideas as long as they don’t violate biblical teachings. Some new ideas help expand our thinking while assisting in the fulfillment of a church or organization’s mission statement. Disruptive innovations start small and be highly criticized in the beginning. Current ‘old ideas’ were once ‘new ideas.’ The “See You At The Pole” movement was birthed out of a conversation from a small group of Christian leaders setting around a table discussing how to encourage students to express their faith on High School campuses. What started as a result of a focused conversation, now has become a worldwide movement among student.
Disruption occurs over time
A Disruptive Innovation typically takes time to develop, which is why it is many times overlooked. It often starts small but over time gains popularity. Sometimes the new product, service or idea is heavily criticized in the beginning because it can be seen as a waste of time or a fruitless use of effort. Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times to create a lightbulb before he succeeded with his new idea. The famous author Dr Seuss had his first book rejected by 28 different publishers before it was published by Random House/Vanguard Press.
Disruption is not always effective but should be given consideration
Not every innovation will succeed. Some die. Yet, we should create an environment in which we expect creativity from God’s people. One of SABA’s core values is “strategic creativity.” What we mean by the term is that we encourage creativity that is strategic in helping us fulfill our stated mission. SABA exists to connect, encourage, and support churches for kingdom impact. We encourage our churches to be creative in serving the underserved. We are encouraging the development of new ideas to help us accomplish what God is leading us to do.
Disruptive innovators must weather the storm of opposition
One of the reasons many companies have a ‘skunkworks’ department is to allow a team the freedom to “design a new idea by escaping routine organizational procedures." A new idea can be easily shut down before it has been given adequate consideration. An innovator with a possible disruptive idea must be able to weather the storms of criticism. Proverbs 18:13 reminds us that “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.”
Takeaways . . .
We need a fresh look
We need help to see our reality from different points of view. This theory helps us to see those who are currently unseen. In other words those who are not being reach or served with the Gospel. There are still pockets of people who are not being impacted in our evangelistic efforts. By creating the discussion, we hope to encourage each of us to take a fresh look at the population segment that is outside of our normal efforts.
We become siloed
When we become siloed in our thinking, we become isolated and unaware of the changes taking place around us. Another term that has been used instead of “siloed” is “institutionalized.” Researchers have found that a leader’s focus “on their existing customers becomes institutionalized in internal processes that make it difficult for even senior managers to shift investment to disruptive innovations.”
We become traditional without knowing it
Tradition is not bad. Some of it is very good and healthy. It helps shape our worldview. At one time what is now considered traditional was once a new idea, a new way of doing things. Yet, we can become traditional without even knowing it. When we become accustomed to our way of doing things, we have created our own tradition or routine. When our routine becomes the norm, we can easily disregard other ways of fulfilling our mission. Tradition become a hinderance when it does not allow us to look beyond our way of doing things. New possibilities are less likely to be considered as an option. Disruptive Innovation offers us the opportunity to reconsider our routine in light of new possibilities.
We experience 'mission drift' over time
What an insightful observation and phrase – mission drift. This concept has also been called historical drift. Organizations, ministries, churches and other entities are conceived and birthed for specific purposes. The mission and vision of a particular entity is important in the sense that it gives intentional direction. Mission drift is the slow erosion that takes place over time. It is sometimes difficult to see when one is an intricate part of a church or organization.
Harvard University is a prime example of mission drift. Established in 1636, the original purpose statement for Harvard was to “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” The original purpose for the creation of Harvard “was mainly to educate clergy.” Upon its founding, the “university employed exclusively Christian professors, emphasized character formation in its students above all else, and placed a strong emphasis on equipping ministers to share the good news. Every diploma read, Christo et Ecclesiae around Veritas, meaning "Truth for Christ and the Church." According to Greer and Horst, “only 80 years after its founding Harvard’s identity was shifting.” Mission drift didn’t take long. It never does.
We need new approaches in a changing world
The new ideas that are being suggested here are those that help us to accomplish our stated biblical mandates, one of which is to make disciples of all people groups. We are not saying that we should change our message . . . . just our methods. We benefit from being flexible in our methods.
We need new ways of measuring success
How do we currently measure success? Over the years I have heard leaders state that everything was going well because the church had money in the bank and the attendance was steady. Over time those two items have become the measurement of success for some churches. Yet we need to measure other activities as well such as, “How many time this last week did our members share their faith?” “How many of our members are involved in being discipled one-on-one or discipling someone else one-on-one?” “How many members regularly participate in churchwide prayer efforts?” There are many other questions, which allow us to measure more that bank accounts and Sunday morning attendance.
We need disruptive innovators who are not disruptive
Disruptive Innovation does not seek to disassemble what is already established. Nor does it seek to dismantle anything. It simply seeks to provide creative innovations outside of the established norm. We need disruptive innovators who are seeking to contribute fresh products, services, or ideas that will help all of us to serve the underserved with the Gospel. We need disruptive innovators who are respectful of what exists because it gives them a context from which to create.
Moving forward . . .
Here are a few things for us to consider.
- Remember that good leaders of good organizations can still be unresponsive to the disruptive forces around them
- Make a new effort to see those who are currently unseen and need the Gospel
- Develop a culture of creative thinkers to help better fulfill the stated mission of your church or organization
- Create a new standard of how to measure success based upon fulfilling the stated mission of your church or organization
- Try new methods of recognizing and reaching those who are under-served
- Equip ourselves and others to think in new ways
- Be teachable - Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Prov. 27:17
 Everett Rogers. Diffusion of Innovation. 5th Edition. New York: Free Press. 2003. Pg. 109.
 Arnold L. Cook. Historical Drift: Must My Church Die? Christian Publications (March 1, 2000)
 The Secular Life at Harvard. Juan V. Esteller, Crimson Staff Writer. January 19, 2016. https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2016/1/19/secular-harvard-esteller
 https://www.bestcollegereviews.org/history-behind-harvard-university. The History Behind Harvard.
 Peter Greer and Chris horst. Mission Drift. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers. 2014. Page 17.