Rising Star, Failure and the Way of Innovation


Like over 5 million people, I watched and participated with the premier of ABC’s new reality singing competing “Rising Star” this past Sunday night. I waited to blog about it to see how the world reacted to the premier. Many called it a failure, citing lack of quality singers and glitches (like how the West Coast votes, etc.). I see it as a step in the right direction of television and a true innovation. Like the book says: The Road to Success is Paved with Failure.

As I was watching the show and participating on my iPhone with the show’s special app, I was thinking of how this technology and concept could be used with a variety of shows. Think of how many times you’ve watched a reality show and wanted to vote someone on or off in real time. I think ABC has started something new (innovation) that will evolve and adapt and change the way we watch and interact and engage with television for years to come.

What did you think?

*** For more on the subject of innovation, check out my new book Strange Leadership.

How to Read Strange Leadership


I’m so thankful for all the support and love shown the past week for my new book Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization. Strange Leadership has been a bestseller on Amazon and is doing great in the Church Leadership category. I’m very excited to see how God uses this book to impact leaders.

I asked a good friend of mine (Jay Thompson) to write a Team Discussion Guide for the book that we would give away to leaders (you can get it on the book website for free). Jay is great at writing discussion questions for small groups and I knew he’d be another great set of eyes and ideas to write the questions for the Team Discussion Guide. He did an amazing job and provided a great resource for leaders.

I was talking with Jay on the phone the other day and he said, “Greg this is not the kind of book you read in one sitting. It’s way too comprehensive and has way too many ideas to ponder and think through. You have to take it a chapter at a time and slowly work your way through the book.” I agree. By the way, that’s why I wanted a Team Discussion Guide. I knew leadership teams would need to slowly go through the book a chapter at a time.

I got a message on Twitter the other day from a pastor who said he was going to read a chapter a day and write a review in about 45 days. That’s great. I’m writing this post to encourage you to go at your own pace and allow God to speak to you through the book.

Strange Leadership has been called “an encyclopedia on innovation.” I think that describes the book well. Nobody would sit down and read straight though an encyclopedia. You would take your time and savor each section or chapter. It may seem strange, but that goes with the territory.

Also, please note: You must read the Introduction of the book – it’s essential. Some say it’s the best chapter of the entire book. This is a book that you need to read completely – the Preface, the Introduction, all 40 chapters and then the Conclusion. They all work together to create an environment where God can speak to you. It may take you a while to complete it, but it will be worth it in the end.

If you haven’t got your copy of the book yet, go here to get it. Thanks and I pray God uses this book to lead you into new ways of doing ministry. Be strange!

Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization

Strange-Leadership-book-cover-high-res-677x1024I have a brand new book that releases worldwide on Tuesday, April 29th, but we are asking as many as will to pre-order it today. I’ve been traveling, teaching and researching the subject of innovation in a Biblical context for the past 6 years. The result of this work is this new book entitled  Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization.

Some friends came up with the idea to have a Strange Leadership Pre-Release Party for him today. Greg will be doing special promotional and pre-release stuff all day today, including an interview and live Google Hangout with CMM Featured Writer Jason Curlee at 11am CST and then Greg will be a guest on DJ Chuang’s Social Media Church Podcast at 4pm CST.

About the book:

Are you a leader in a Christian organization? Is your church, ministry, or business lacking innovation? Perhaps you’re experienced in trying new things and moving in new ways, but you haven’t ever tried anything strange. Truly innovative leaders are often considered strange. Don’t settle for everyday leadership; immerse yourself in Strange Leadership!

Greg gives 40 different ways the Bible teaches us to be strange leaders. Greg pulls from Scripture to illuminate these concepts and, from the words and writings of other leaders, to drive them home. Strange Leadership is practically an encyclopedia on the subject of innovation.

Here’s what some key leaders are saying about the book:

Innovation is imperative in today’s leadership culture. Strange Leadership reminds us all that innovation is about doing a whole new thing, that ultimately flows from God, the Chief Innovator. Thanks Greg for pointing us back to our true source for innovation and inspiration. – Brad Lomenick, President and Key Visionary of Catalyst and Author of The Catalyst Leader

Strange Leadership provides leadership help to teach you how innovation can come about in your life and organization by keeping God at the center and will equip you with practical thoughts to lead with integrity. – Pete Wilson, Senior Pastor of Cross Point Church and Author of Plan B and Let Hope In

To be effective, church leaders must be open to innovation. We have to be willing to allow something new to happen in our churches as we seek God’s leading; we have to stay on the cutting edge, so we can be relevant in the world we are trying to reach. One of the best ways to stay innovative is to listen to and learn from those who model biblical innovation every day, like my friend Greg Atkinson. – Nelson Searcy, Founder and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, Author and Founder of ChurchLeaderInsights.com

Because leadership in Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom is so different and distinct from the world, it is “strange leadership.” In his book, Greg offers practical and helpful thoughts on leading others as one under the rule of God. – Eric Geiger, Author and Vice President LifeWay Christian Resources

Strange Leadership is an engrossing and enchanting collection of probes into the emerging field of innovation studies. It is filled with firecrackers, and sometimes even fireworks.  Leonard Sweet, best-selling author, professor (Drew University, George Fox University), Chief Contributor to sermons.com

It’s not a coincidence that God chose to introduce himself in the first verse of the Bible as a “Creator.”  I believe God puts a far higher value on creativity and innovation than most people believe.  That’s why I’m thrilled with Greg Atkinson’s new book.  It’s a wake up call to the Church and a powerful reminder that change is here whether we’re ready or not, and whether we like it or not.  Leaders – dismiss this book at your peril.  – Phil Cooke, Ph.D. – Filmmaker, Media Consultant, and author of Unique:  Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media

What’s Should You Do?

To find out more about the book and/or to order your copy today, go HERE. Your support of my ministry and this new book project are a great encouragement to my ministry to church leaders around the world. There is a free downloadable team discussion guide on the book website. We encourage you to order multiple copies for your whole team and go through it with them. Innovation is possible and you might just find that you don’t mind being called a “Strange Leader.”

*** I want to encourage you to connect with me and the book online:

  • Follow @StrangeLeader on Twitter HERE.
  • Follow @GregAtkinson on Twitter HERE.
  • “Like”  the book and my author page on Facebook HERE and keep up with my writing, work and ministry to the Church.
  • Be sure to check out my first video podcast about the book on the Pastor Fury Podcast. Go here to check it out: http://armansheffey.com/iTunes 
  • Join our Thunderclap campaign to get the word out about the book’s official release date (April 29th). It will take you less than 5 minutes to help me out. Go HERE.

Thanks for your support!

Join the Strange Leadership Pre-Release Party!

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This Tuesday, April 15th (Tax Day), some friends of mine are throwing a Pre-Release Party for my new book Strange Leadership. We’ll be doing some fun stuff, giving away cool stuff and I’ll be a guest on a couple of live podcasts talking with church leaders about the book. I don’t want you to miss out on a thing, so go HERE to join the Pre-Release Party. Join in the fun and thanks for your support!

To read more details about the book and look around the book website, go here: StrangeLeadership.com

Monday, be sure to check out my first video podcast about the book on the Pastor Fury Podcast. Go here to check it out: http://armansheffey.com/iTunes 

Guest Post by Charles Hill: I Held The Dying Bride In My Arms

The following guest blog is by Charles Hill, church planter in Salt Lake City and founder of The Sticks Conference

I have been engaged in “vocational” ministry for over a decade now. I have read the church growth, church health, theology, polity, simple church, mega church, church history and church future books to name a few. But it wasn’t until I held the dying bride that everything changed for me.

God blessed our first plant in the middle of nowhere, cornfield, rural, small-town [2,800 people] Ohio. Our last Easter there, we saw 1,500 people just at our first campus, and we had 2 other regional campuses and 1 in China. Yes, God blessed beyond our wildest dreams despite our stupidity. [By the way, if you are called to the middle of nowhere, you might want to check out this gathering of radicals who are called to the same thing at THE STICKS gatherings.]

God has called us to do that all over again, this time in the fastest-growing state in the country…UTAH [not a typo], through MISSION WEST. There are 24+ cities just in the upper 1/3 of Utah found by leaving the main interstate by only 20 minutes in either direction that we have found without ONE CHURCH in them [non-Mormon of course]. And yes, that is UTAH, USA, not Pakistan or some other out of the way place. And in cities as large as 22,000! I dread doing the rest of the research.

So why not? Let’s roll. We did it once [actually several times through multi-sites] through God’s power, let’s rock it again. We have the experience, we have the tools. Let’s roll this thing. Same thing, new location right? Until I held the dying bride in my arms.

You know all of those alarmist books that calls those of us in America to wake-up, to take notice, to understand that the future of the church is and will look much different, and we need to take notice NOW so we can prepare for it? I had read those, but working in the mid-west and the Bible-belt for a time, where cutting-edge music, graphics, programming, lights, cameras, action is still so new, hip, sheik and still working well to draw people to the Savior? Crap, we had half the town in church that last Easter, but something still felt wrong. Because I didn’t really get it until I held the dying bride in my arms.

January, 2010: I held the dying bride in my arms. On a vision/learning trip to London and surrounding areas, it happened. To my friends working in the UK/Europe, I honor your efforts [and many of you are KILLING it in Jesus name, and I salute you!] In just 1 generation, everything has changed in the UK you told me. 1 generation. And for those in the bible-belt, it’s happening here in the USA just as fast. You, like me just haven’t experienced it yet.

I now not only have read about it, spoken about it, theorized about it, but I have held it. And as a church planting coach, consultant, speaker, and planter myself…everything has to change, and it has to change not just to be trendy, not just to be hip, and not just to use “missional living” as the next big “program”.

Everything. You are like, no kidding Charles, how is this innovative? Where have you been? Awfully late to the party aren’t you? This is old stuff.

Oh, no, trust me…I’m not late. I travel the country right now a ton, and people might say they are living this out, but they are still stuck in one of several “forms” of ministry that are leading us to record decrease in the US, not an increase. [And many are still stuck in the good old days of yester-year, but that’s a totally different story.]

We are 1 generation from being a very post-Christian nation such as they are in the UK and Europe. Matter of fact, we are easily on our way as I type this. But many of you, like me, have refused to change everything. Not just tinker with a few things here and there. But radically overhaul everything. But that might cost you some givers, some momentum, might even cost you your job. You might not even know where to start. But you, like me, know something is wrong with this picture, no matter how “small or large” your church is.

This week I will be sharing my thoughts on how, why and what we must change immediately now that I have held the dying bride in my arms. I believe we can turn this ship around in the name of Jesus!

You can find me this week over HERE and help carry out the discussion. I would love to learn with and from you. [Thanks Greg, innovation guru, and the best late-night movie date ever, for hosting me as a guest. You are a noble and honorable man of God].

Share Your Story of Risk

I’m collecting stories of risk and would love to hear from you. I’d like to hear if you and your church took a risk and what the outcome was and I’d love to hear if you think a Biblical story demonstrates taking risk. You, my friends, are my partners in writing this book. Please share a story of risk with me.

Sean Payton, Risk and Church Leaders

As I watched the Super Bowl I couldn’t help but be struck by the boldness and guts it took to do the onside kick at the beginning of the second half. I applauded New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton for having the idea and nerve to go for it. For me, I think that recovery of the onside kick changed the rest of the game – there was a momentum shift and the Colts never recovered.

As you know, I’ve been traveling the country for the last 2 years speaking on the subject of innovation. I’ve taught on innovation at several conferences, schools and to regional meetings of Church leaders around the country. After the past 2 years of studying, reading and forming my thoughts on innovation, I’ve come to realize that innovation and risk go hand in hand.

A lot of churches want to be “innovative”, but don’t have the guts or faith to take strategic risks. Hear me Church leaders: sometimes you must be willing to risk it all – that means your organization’s culture has to have a freedom to fail. Successful and innovative organizations and businesses actually reward failure because they realize it’s necessary for breakthroughs in innovation.

I’m working on a book on innovation in which I’ll go into much more detail, but for today I encourage you to chew on this notion of risk and being willing to fail – it just might lead to something amazing in your ministry.

Let me know: When was the last time your church took a risk?

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.