I was recently talking about the concept of "continuous improvement" with a friend who owns a business. He often (if not constantly) is processing his business through the lens of scripture, and on this occasion the conversation turned to the importance of ongoing growth in business, ministry and the Christian life. The Apostle Paul prayed in his letter to the Philippians knowing confidently that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." This good work that the Lord is doing in us is not finished until the day when Jesus returns! In Exodus 16, God promised to provide daily bread and meat for the Israelites while they were in the desert; this provision came in the form of a bread like substance called manna that fell like dew from the sky, and quail. While God was providing fresh nourishment each day, there was only one catch; they couldn't save yesterday's portion to eat the next day. Just as it's easy to fall into "maintain mode" in ministry or business, living on yesterday's manna is a temptation in the Christian life as well.
The need for fresh and creative approaches in an urban, multicultural context is such a critical factor that we've embraced "innovation" as a core value. Innovation implies a willingness to try new things, to take risks, to celebrate successes, to fail and try again, and a constant eagerness to improve and grow. The journey of Mission Adelante has included all of these things. Sticking to a basic set of vision and values, we've explored and experimented with different strategies, we celebrated successes and improved approaches that have worked well. We've discontinued ministry programs that had flourished in their season, and we've picked up the pieces and tried again when an idea hasn't worked out. The shifting nature of our unique ministry context has required a willingness to embrace change and allow the Lord to guide us into new and unfamiliar territory.
This value of innovation on an organizational level has its parallel in our personal lives with Christ. It is represented by the willingness to trust Him with success and failure, to pursue spiritual growth eagerly, even when it comes through discomfort, to seek fresh nourishment from Christ each day, and to be guided by Him constantly. Of course, the value of innovation can be misapplied as well. Dangerous expressions might include always seeking something new, a restlessness that causes us to move too quickly from one thing to another, or an over-ambitious drive to achieve new and bigger things for our own glory. Nevertheless, the deep spiritual lessons the Lord teaches us when we are willing to be led by Him into unfamiliar territory and nourished by Him with fresh manna daily are an important part of His plan for our continued growth "until the day of Christ Jesus."
Is your relationship with God current and growing, or are you living on your experience with God from times past? Have you settled in to what's comfortable and easy in your job, or are you willing to keep improving the way you work? As I walk through seasons of ministry and life, I pray for the passion and faith to continue pursuing and embracing the growth the Lord wants to produce in me. I pray that I'll always choose the discomfort and faith that growth requires over the moldy bread of complacency.