Toward theologies of innovation for faith in a changing world

For millennia, faith traditions have been innovating, adapting worship, theology, and social engagement to bring God to the people of different eras in a changing world and to meet the social needs of the times (see previous post, Remembering our innovative past: A look at the Catholic Church). Yet how rarely we talk about innovation as faith communities. We tend to consider it a value and expertise of the business or technology sectors, sectors we also tend to view with some skepticism. But the world is changing more rapidly than ever before, and the challenges driving social needs today are becoming more complex. We can’t afford not to talk about this. And, well, innovate accordingly.

In this new article in eJewish philanthropy, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Dr. Nir Tsuk of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University give us a starting point, discussing how without innovation, there is no organization.

Joshua believed that in a moment of radical change such as his own, the only way for the institution to breathe was with a thoroughly imbued ethic of innovation. True, some of this spirit may have been lost from modern manifestations of the Beit Midrash. But the original founders of the Beit Midrash held a vision not only for academic casuistry but for social innovation.
— Dr. Nir Tsuk and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna

In his 2016 book, Christian Social Innovation, Greg Jones of Duke Divinity similarly helps us imagine how social innovation rooted in hope can help us renew our institutions and purpose.

If we are oriented toward the goal of comprehending, with our whole life - thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and actions - the fullness of God’s work in Christ by the power of the Spirit, we are set on fire to dream extraordinary dreams for the world, ourselves, and our communities and institutions. God’s power at work within us is able to accomplish “abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20-21 NRSV).
— L. Gregory Jones

Is your faith community talking about innovation? As a value, a tool, a mindset? To transform your institutions, to transform the world? Are you putting theology behind it? Let us know.

Photo by Andy Hall on Unsplash