Did you know you listen every day with your eyes just as much as your ears? I listen every day as I read through Twitter posts, Facebook statuses, Instagram pictures, people watching, etc. Listening is an art, but it helps to approach it like a science.

I follow a wide variety of people on social media because I’m listening through technology – a science I learned from my friend Tony Steward. Christians, non-Christians, atheists, New Agers, Jews, Muslims, tech gurus, musicians, celebrities, churches, news outlets – you name it, I follow them. I get a pulse on culture and the world via the people and companies I follow and listen to.

“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while, he knows something.” – Wilson Mizner.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich

The thing about listening is it goes hand-in-hand with intentionality. I can only share this concept with you, but you have to put feet to it. I listen because I care. I listen because I want to learn. I listen because I want to grow.

I want to join God where He’s at work.

I often talk about having our spiritual antennas up. If your spiritual antenna is up, you won’t miss opportunities to be Christ to someone in need. In the book and study Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby says, “God’s activity is far greater than anything we could aspire to do for Him.”

Listening is another way of saying being sensitive to the Holy Spirit. If we truly believe God’s activity is greater, then we would have to take steps to seek His moving.

“Watch what God does and then you do it.” – Ephesians 5:1 (MSG)

As we open our eyes, ears, and hearts and truly listen with all our ability (again this takes intentionality), we have the great privilege and opportunity of getting on the same page with our Creator and joining Him in His work and mission.

As I said in a blog post for Outreach Magazine: If you want to be truly innovative and start doing new and exciting ways of ministry you must be dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

Jeremiah 33:3 teaches us, “Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.”

If we “call to God” and He promises to answer, this inherently requires listening on our part. God will reveal things that we would never figure out on our own, but we have to be ready, available, sensitive and actively listening.

Who are you listening to?

The Birth of Innovation

Here’s a new article I just wrote for Catalyst:

Innovation is a popular buzz word now and a sought after topic of discussion in conferences and the ministry resource world. I approach innovation a little differently and try my best to look at it through a Biblical lens. Innovation is the act of introducing something new. God tells us in Isaiah 43:19 to “Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? “(MSG)

Something that was foundational in my own life was studying Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God. In the book, Blackaby teaches that “when you recognize where God is working, you can join in what He is doing.” That to me, friends, is at the very core of being innovative – to be so in tune with God that His dreams become your dreams. May we stop bringing God our plans to bless and seek where He’s already at work around us?

Ephesians 5:1 reads, “Watch what God does and then you do it.” (MSG) What does being innovative require? A few things: First we must grasp onto this concept of joining God in His mission. Blackaby teaches that “God’s activity is far greater than anything we could aspire to do for Him.” Let that one sink in a little bit. For some of you it may be painful. For some it may be a relief.

So a first step in being truly innovative is listening to the Spirit of God and looking for where He’s moving. It requires that our innovation antennas are up and seeking God moments that lead to breakthroughs in our ministries.

Another step in being truly innovative is walking with God and being men and women of integrity. Genesis 6:9 teaches us that Noah “was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” What did Noah do? Only one of the most innovative and unprecedented acts in all of human history. He built an ark to protect himself, his family and many animals from a flood before it had ever rained! – that’s innovative (doing something new).

The question is: Whose idea was it? Let that sink in for a moment. Did Noah come to God with a plan to build a boat and ask him to bless it or did God speak to Noah and guide Him because he was a man that “walked with God?” When it comes right down to it, we really can’t take credit for innovative ideas. They are truly gifts from God that should lead us to worship.

I could talk about innovation all day. I’ll simply close with five thoughts on how innovation is born. Innovation is born out of times of inspiration, conversation, situation, frustration and desperation.

First, innovation is born out of times of inspiration. These are those God moments when we have our spiritual antennas up and the Holy Spirit whispers to us in that still small voice. Sometimes He speaks to us through our dreams, sometimes in quiet times of worship and reflection. Sometimes while communing with him in nature and taking in his amazing creation.

Second, innovation is born out of times of conversation. Blackaby teaches that God uses people and circumstances to help us discern the will of God. I believe that in our conversations with friends, family, co-workers, co-laborers in ministry and especially our lost and unbelieving friends and family that God uses those discussions to show us areas of need and new ways of doing things.

Third, innovation is born out of your situation. I know a church that doesn’t have any musicians in their local body to put together a worship band, but they do know a DJ. So, now they are known as the “cool church with the DJ” – when in actuality they are just making the most out of the situation they are in.

Fourth, innovation is born out of times of frustration. I was listening to Larry Osborne of North Coast talk on innovation recently and he said that it often comes from the guy who questions things and says, “There has got to be a better way to do this” or “Why do we have to always do it like that?” I believe God can and does use the things that drive us crazy to allow us to find new and creative solutions for doing things differently.

Lastly and where my heart is most is I believe innovation is born out of times of desperation. I think of small churches and church plants that are in survival mode and are so desperate as a church to make it that they are willing to risk it all. I, and many other mega-church staff leaders, have my eyes on smaller churches that are doing some extremely innovative things.

I also think we can learn a lot from our brothers and sisters overseas that are sometimes meeting underground and are in true “survival” mode. They are seeing God move in mighty ways and are finding new and wonderful ways of reaching the lost and making an impact in their community.

What do they have that we often miss? A sense of desperation that leads to a dependency on the Holy Spirit. Friends, there are no shortcuts to innovation. You cannot bypass prayer. Prayer isn’t just the way to open a brainstorming meeting, it is the meeting. If you want to be truly innovative and start doing new and exciting ways of ministry you must be dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

I’ll close with Scripture and let God have the final word. Jeremiah 33:3 teaches us, “Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.