Sunday, December 05, 2010

Have You Misdiagnosed Your Innovation?

Just because you built a Web site doesn’t mean that your innovation is technological. The same would be true of footwear, sports or any other field. But this is a very common mistake. We look at an innovative product and assume that its core innovation is defined by it’s industry or market.

One example is facebook. It would be easy to say that facebook’s innovations are technological. However, as you listen to the recent 60 Minutes interview with Mark Zuckerberg, you begin to realize that the innovation that propelled facebook forward had more to do with sociology and connectedness than it did about code.

The same is true of Wikileaks. As a recent blog post from The Economist eloquently describes, the innovation in Wikileaks has nothing to do with technology. Instead the innovation is in how Julian Assange, founder of the site, strategically networked together servers within countries that have strong whistleblower laws and protections. Essentially, he has found a way to harness the globe’s legal protections in his fight to uncover secrets.

I have been fascinated with facebook and Wikileaks (see my recent post about Wikileaks and generosity) because these represent movements that have polarized people so dramatically but have not lost their ability to shape our relationships and our view of government and power. But as we get caught up in these dramatic stories of innovation, we tend to misdiagnose the innovative foundation. This can lead to a limited understanding of the innovation and how we can leverage it.

But more practically, it is possible that you have misdiagnosed your innovation! You may think that it is innovative for one reason, when really there is a deeper creative idea that is at play. Don’t settle for your assumptions. Dig deep into your idea and make sure that you understand your innovation and why it is unique.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why the Word "Just" Scares Me

I have been thinking alot about this little word "just." It seems pretty innocent and it definitely doesn't feel threatening. However, this word is one of the most dangerous words an innovator can hear. Why is that?

Think about it. If you are in a brainstorming session working on your new idea and a colleague of your says, "I know how to solve that issue. Just . . ." A few things have happened in this moment:
1. A solution has been presented but minimized and made to sound simple or without difficulty.
2. Expectations have been set and people are expecting that "just" will turn into "done."

But we all know that no innovation every was "just" anything. There are thousands of rabbit trails, countless false starts and a myriad of failures along the way.

Next time you hear the word "just" don't ignore it. Stop the conversation and challenge the statement. An innovation culture is one where the word "just" is banned from the conversation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What doesn't fit in a Safety Deposit Box?

I have a confession to make. We have a safety deposit box . . . and we have never put a single thing in it. It's one of those things that has been a mental block for me. What do you put in a little box somewhere that is supposed to be secure?

I guess the reason it is such a challenge is that the things we value don't fit in it. The experiences that we have as we grow in our walk with God, the people that are generous with us and those we get to show generosity to. The ideas that we have as we live life on mission. All those things don't fit in that silly box.

I've noticed that many people who are focused on innovation do know what to put in that little box. They put their secret soup recipe or the outline for their next major book in the box and make sure to hide the key. Why do innovators do that? Well, part of it is that they have invested so much in an idea that they feel compelled to protect it.

They identify what they believe to be the key to that innovation and lock it up tight. But I would like to ask you innovators to reconsider whether what is in that small box is actually the key to your innovation. The key question to ask is, "How did God inspire you to create what is now stored in that little box?" I'm sure there were key people you interacted with, events you participated in, classes you attended, etc. Could your innovation have come about without those influences?

So next time you go to that small box and check on your ideas, remember where they really reside - in your relationships and experiences that God brings into your life!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Do you Silo Sundays?

I was thinking today as I attended church that we tend to silo Sundays. What do I mean by that? We who reserve Sunday as a day of rest separate out the day from our normal lives. We go to church and think about church things. We go home and think about the approved "restful" things . . . sports, fiction, etc.

I am a big fan of rest on Sunday. It was designed by God and our bodies and minds desperately need a rest in this fast paced world. But I think that in our efforts to separate out the day, we tend to go too far. We silo Sunday from the rest of our week and fail to see Sunday as part of what makes our week work.

For me I find that Sunday morning is a time of great inspiration. I am listening to wonderful music, getting great teaching, interacting with other believers and thinking about new ideas. Then in the afternoon I let my brain take a rest and so many of the ideas from the week and that morning begin to take form and shape. On of our mentors called that "letting an idea cook."

It is Sunday that brings the week into perspective. I see how God has been working, get new thoughts about a key challenge I am facing and I allow all the thoughts of the week to cook. It is Sunday that brings my last 6 days together and prepares me for the next 6. It is not a time to ignore the "secular" or "mundane" in favor of the "spiritual." It is the time to bring my week into perspective with a spiritual lens that should define everything I have done.

Some of my most innovative ideas and brainstorms have come together on Sunday. Now I don't roll them out on this day of rest. I don't run to the office and start working away at my new insight. But I frame my week around my new perspective and I am able to bring new energy and excitement to my week.

So what did you learn today? Did you allow your life to entry Sunday? Do you believe that God can use Sunday to inspire Monday morning?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Redefining Experts

This blog post is going to be an event sandwich. I will start out telling you something I learned at the local Evangelical Press Association event last week and end up applying that lesson to the Lausanne Cape Town 2010 Congress starting tomorrow.

Well, I attended the regional EPA event last week with other media/communications/ministry people. It is always a good time to connect, brainstorm and engage with each other on key issues. One of the thoughts that came up was the question, "Who really is an expert anymore?" As we discussed and interacted the consensus was clear. The experts of today are not those who know everything about a particular subject. That is the 20th Century definition. Today's experts are those who can most effectively get the information needed on a given topic. They are the ones who know key voices on the subject, who have a solid foundation in the area and who can bring their knowledge and the information from others together into an answer to your question.

Wow, that is a huge shift isn't it. We used to think of experts as these eyeglass-wearing, socially challenged geniuses sitting in rooms with lots of books. But today an expert is ... well ... you. If you are involved in the community of people who care about an issue, if you have taken the time to build a foundation of knowledge and if know where you can look online and via different content streams for the right insights, then you are now an expert.

Now lets apply this very practically. Tomorrow the Cape Town 2010 Congress on Global Evangelization begins. This is the third congress - the first one in Lausanne was launched by Billy Graham and John Stott. This even brings together 4000 people from 190 countries in delegations. They have assigned tables and they are working on key issues that face the church today and in the coming years.

This event is your opportunity to deepen your knowledge, connections and information sources as an expert in various missions areas. By engaging in the event via the online tools I am going to share with you, you can tap into the key ideas and thinking that will allow you to be an expert for those in your sphere of influence.

Here is my challenge. I would like each of you to commit to listen/watch/read at least one piece of content coming out of Cape Town 2010 each day between the 18th and the 25th of October. Here is how you can do that:



GlobaLink locations:

Online Participation:

RSS of CT2010 news (includes Lausanne blog)

Video Podcast:
direct link:
note: video podcast is not compatible with older ipods.

Audio Podcast:
direct link:

All congress video will also be added to:

Email newsletter (for daily news summaries/highlights):

You now have access to a flood of information that will help you to become an expert in key areas impacting the Global church. The only question is. . . will you take advantage of this opportunity

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Every Discussion Counts

I don't know about you, but many times I do not see the potential in the people that God has placed in front of me. It is no critique of those around me at all - instead it is a critique on my own ability to see how God is working in other's lives.

So because of this struggle, I tend not to realize that those around me have so much to offer. Many times it is unintentional but it happens just the same. What I am realizing more and more as I go to events, work on projects and connect with new people, is that God has given each person we meet something to add to our lives, ministry and work. This is especially true of Christians who are listening to God and growing closer to Him, but I think God is even trying to teach us things through those people who don't know the Lord.

One of the qualities of an innovator is a person who is tuned in to what God is doing and saying through those around them. Innovators need new ideas, creative approaches and strategic thoughts if their ideas are going to be great. God is shepherding so many innovations towards reality through us and he is using these people to bring the creative solution together.

Do you listen to those around you? Do you pay attention to the ideas, talents and opinions of those that God has put in your life? Do you listen to those who are very different than you?

If you don't then you are missing out on one of the ways that God wants to communicate with you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Redefining Success in Light of Suffering

One of my great joys as a believer in this new age is the opportunity to be involved in the Lausanne Movement as we get ready for the Congress in Cape Town, South Africa next month. My role is helping with social media and coordinating the Blogger Network - over 30 talented writers who are sharing their thoughts on global evangelism.

Recently we did an interview with Ajith Fernando about his recent article in Christianity Today entitled "To Serve is to Suffer." It was a great time of asking questions and listening to a wonderful man of God who has a passionate heart for service.

One of the things that Ajith talked about was the idea that "fulfillment should include suffering." Wow, what a challenging thought. We are trained as innovators to believe that a life of fulfillment will mean blessing, success and new opportunities to use our skills. But to think that we cannot experience true fulfillment unless we suffer goes against the very grain of our culture.

Why would he say this? Well, if we define our success as innovators in light of a world that values productivity, progress and new ideas, then suffering doesn't seem to fit . . . or does it? Take a minute to think back to the lives of some of the great innovators of the last century. Many of them suffered greatly. I think of the physical ailments that tormented William Wilberforce or the context of slavery that George Washington Carver was born into. I think of the tragedy of Adoniram Judson as he saw those he loved die during his service as a missionary. Each one of these individuals was an innovator that struggled and suffered greatly.

But it was in many of those agonizing struggles that God formed them into people who viewed the world as He does. Their innovations and efforts came out of God's strength flowing through them rather than their own efforts. And in their suffering, they came to grips with their identity in Christ.

I think that Ajith was challenging us as innovators to focus on identifying with the suffering Christ and then responding in love to the challenging situations around us. If our challenges allow us to create new innovations that respond to people's great needs, then we will see greater fulfillment than we could have ever hoped for on our own.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The End of a Transition and the Beginning of a Journey

When we suddenly found ourselves in a liminal time of transition just a few months ago, I shared very openly about our process and about the lessons my wife Mindy and I were learning as we journeyed through a time of even greater dependence on God.

Thank you to each of you for being part of that journey. Your encouragement, connections and prayers along the way have made all the difference as we have strived to honor God through our transition. Over the past months I have written the following posts about our process:
And now I write this post to share about how God has guided and directed us to a new phase of ministry. As you have seen from my posts of late, God has put the publishing industry on our hearts. Better said, God has burdened Mindy and I with a passion to help people communicate their ideas in new ways for a new century. This is not new, but in transition you always go back to the passions that God has given you and ask Him for a fresh perspective.

We did that over the past months. I interacted in great detail with many in the publishing field trying to identify what God is doing through the publishing of ideas to further His Kingdom. We asked the hard questions and looked for the key innovations that would be part of making God's Word and His work in the lives of believers available to more and more people.

At the end of that process God gave us the opportunity to join a new publishing start up called Novo Ink ( in Colorado Springs. This new organization will be coming alongside content providers such as Christian publishers to help them move their current and back-list titles into a high definition, color eBook reader delivered by Zinio, a long-time digital content provider with over 7 million subscribers globally. These eBooks will be available on people's computers, iPhones, iPads and soon in the Android Market.

As of September 7, I have taken the role of Account Manager and I have the great pleasure of working with the publishing staff of the Christian publishers that decide to partner with Novo Ink to get their content into this new format and available for purchase. I am very excited about the potential because Zinio's platform has the ability to deliver static content in an excellent/high-quality experience but it also has the ability to deliver audio, video and Flash content within the books - helping Christian publishers make the jump to Enhanced eBooks and a more dynamic experience for readers.

Mindy and I will continue in the Generous Mind cause, including blogging on innovations in publishing as I move deeper into that arena along with innovations for ministry in general. We also will keep blogging about our latest book Through the River: Understanding Your Assumptions About Truth and encourage you to purchase a copy and take time to think through how you understand truth.

Again, it is with great humility and thankfulness that we write this note. We owe so much to each person that is part of the Generous Mind cause. We look forward to your comments and your thoughts as we begin this new journey.

P.S. To follow along as Novo Ink launches in the coming weeks/months please connect in these ways:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Redefining Entrepreneurship

A key part of understanding Kingdom innovation is your definition of entrepreneurship. To be honest, this has been a great challenge for me. One of the struggles I have continually had to work through is the idea that all innovators are entrepreneurs and all entrepreneurs own their own businesses.

The reason this assumption is challenging is that I'm not the business-starting type. I like to fit into a larger context and be a part of a team. I'm also don't have some of the savvy needed to run a business. So my thought immediately was, "I guess I'm just not an entrepreneur and if that is true maybe I am not a true innovator."

Since I edited a book on innovation and have been blogging on it for several years, you can imagine that this idea didn't sit too well. It was always one of those nagging things that I couldn't dismiss but I knew I just didn't have the full picture.

Well, recently I attended a seminar given by Mark Russell, a new friend who owns Russell Media. He has written a book called The Missional Entrepreneur and he provided some good insight. I will share several thoughts that he touched on in his talk over the next few blog posts.

But the one I want to focus on today is his definition of entrepreneurship. He defined it as . . . an innovative state of mind that results in productive action.

Lets break that down:
  • innovative state of mind: That means that you are open to new ideas, asking questions and reframing the issues you face in unique new ways.
  • results in productive action: That means that you take those ideas/questions/reframed issues and you do something with it.
I really love this definition because it does not mandate what kind of action results from your innovation. Instead it leaves that open to many contexts. That means you can be an entrepreneur inside an organization, on a team, or as you start your own effort.

I hope this is an encouragement to you as it was to me. Even if you will never start a business or run an organization, that has little to do with your ability to be an entrepreneur and innovator in your context.

So what do you think of Mark's definition?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What happens when we can only think at Starbucks?

It sounds silly but this is a serious question. As I make my trek through a liminal season between full-time jobs, I find myself working on contract work from many locations - including Starbucks. What I have seen has caused me to think.

As I go into these coffee shops and restaurants with free wireless, I see tables full of workers focused on projects, teams of collaborators discussing their work, business people in the middle of a meeting and HR people interviewing potential employees.

And the crazy thing is that this is all happening in each location at the same time every day!

So back to my question. When some or all of these people get the types of jobs they consider "regular" jobs, will they be able to function in the sterile world of cubicles that they once knew? I think that this will be a harder transition than they think. A Starbucks has legal stimulants, groovy music and plenty of noise. It is a fast changing environment and it reprograms how you go about work. I know, I have had to adjust my work still when I am in such a public place.

At this very moment a huge percentage of the workforce is being reconditioned to work in very different environments than the fortune 500 companies of America. This means that they are meeting new people, learning about new ideas, setting up new environments for innovation and creating a "new normal."

As businesses and ministries begin to rehire they will have to take this into consideration. The millions that were laid off will not go back into the workforce the same. Now that is not necessarily bad. The white collar workers who have been laid off have developed new skills, grown through their challenges and created new relationships.

All that can lead to new innovation as many of these "Starbucks workers" begin to come together around opportunities and new ideas. It can also be a huge benefit to organizations who hire these workers.

The key will be to realize that the transition has changed you the worker and that will change the company you eventually work for or start on your own. All this can lead to innovation if it is understood, processed and harnessed.

So are you a "Starbucks worker"? What has your experience been in this transitionary time? How will you harness what you have learned to create new innovations?

Are you a company or ministry looking to hire? What steps will you take to engage in this new reality?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Serving through An Interview

God give me work till my life shall end and life till my work is done. Amen. (Yorkshire Tombstone)
If you are in a career transition as I am, you are very aware that interviewing is a lot of work. You are networking, filling out applications, researching organizations, meeting with staff, praying about opportunities, taking assessments and the list goes one.
But for some reason we usually put interviewing and job hunting in a different category than "real work." We choose to treat it as a necessary evil that will hopefully result in meaningful purpose. But an innovator, if they are being intentional, will not view it that way. Instead, every job application, every hour of research, every in-person interview, is a chance for you to grow and develop your skills and ideas.
But more than that, every interaction with a potential employer is a chance for you to invest in them! If you are on a job hunt today, part of your job is to invest in those who are considering you. What does that look like? It might be the questions you ask in the interview. It might be an encouraging note or helpful article you send to the HR staffer you are working with. You might provide some key insight into that leader's challenges when he interviews you.
The challenge with viewing the job hunt as meaningful work is that you have to be satisfied with God's timing and results. If God's purpose in having you interview at a certain place was to give them an insight, then your work there is done. That is so hard for us goal-oriented people. We believe that the only worthy result of an interview is an offer. But in a day where offers are few and far between, I think we are realizing another level of how God can use this liminal time in our lives.
Is the job hunt the word God has set before you today? Don't waste this time of service! Look for every opportunity to serve God as you search.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

E-book is the sexiest word in publishing

NOTE: I'm pleased to have Dave Sheets as a guest blogger for Innovation in Mission. I look forward to the discussion his post will generate. You can find more info on Dave at the end of this post. -- Jon Hirst

Amazon’s announcement last month that they had sold more e-books than hardcover books set off a blizzard of stories about e-books, the death of the printed book, and how the industry is going down the same path as the music publishers.

I, for one, am skeptical of a lot of what is being written, but it is important to note that e-book sales are growing and that they are changing the face of the publishing (and reading) industry. As noted, the news is full of big numbers and even bigger predictions. According to Amazon’s Kindle Vice President, Ian Freed1, “We're pretty sure we're 70 to 80 percent of the [e-book] market.” That is significant, even if there is disagreement as to actually how much Amazon owns. In fact, in addition to Amazon’s announcement about hard covers, they expect their e-book sales to eclipse their softcover sales sometime in 2011.

Does this mean the death of the printed book? Markus Dohle2, the head of mega publisher Random House recently was quoted as saying that even though e-book sales are growing “by leaps and bounds”, they only account for 8% of US revenues this year, and may exceed 10% next year.

Dohle, however, doesn't believe that the majority of book readers are ready to make the jump from books to bytes – something that Amazon has been suggesting3 over the past two weeks.

The e-book is today, what the cheap paperback was to the publishing industry 75 years ago. According the Guardian newspaper4, this new “disruptive technology” could carry the same results as the paperback book did – drive new masses of readers to content. But just as the paperback revolution did three quarters a century ago, the new e-book is threatening to drive prices down, which will be a paradigm shift for today’s content stewards.

According to the article, Jon Makinson, the chief of Penguin Publishing, echoes this shift when discussing how easy it is for readers to carry dozens of books with them on their devices. He says that this will "redefine what we do as publishers." The sales trend for Penguin is still growing. Even so, digital book sales are still less than 1% for the media giant, but the direction of the market is clear. In the US, digital books already account for 6% of consumer sales.

Malkinson5 goes on to say that publishers must embrace innovation: "I am keen on the idea that every book that we put on to an iPad has an author interview, a video interview, at the beginning. I have no idea whether this is a good idea or not. There has to be a culture of experimentation, which doesn't come naturally to book publishers. We publish a lot of historians, for example. They love the idea of using documentary footage to illustrate whatever it is they're writing about."

Digital books seem to be expanding the market according to some, while others say that the numbers show that e-books are simply moving the reader from one platform to another. As the sales continue to climb, studies will help publishers understand which of these cases is actually true. But for now, Malkinson shows his understanding of consumer behavior. "You have to give the consumer what the consumer wants – you can't tell the consumer to go away…if the consumer wants to buy a book in an electronic format now, you should let the consumer have it."

Where does that leave the book manufacturers? As I pointed out in a previous blog post6, the guys looking over their shoulders these days are the traditional long run printers. As e-books gain in popularity and sales, publishers are going to look at digital printing more and more, and for companies like Snowfall Press, this is wonderful news indeed.

What do you believe will happen to printed books?


    Dave Sheets
    Business Development Consultant in Publishing and Printing
    Outlaw Sales Group LLC

Monday, August 02, 2010

You Don't Get Authenticity By Association

I recently wrote a guest blog post for David Sheets. My post is about how you can't be authentic by association. That means that just because you spend time in a community, it doesn't mean you are an authentic part of that group. I specifically speak about this in relationship to engaging people with new ideas. Read on . . .

David runs Outlaw Sales Group and describes his work this way:

Outlaw Sales Group LLC (OSG) was formed to drive start-up ventures and established companies to excel in sales and business development. From consulting on sales plans, to helping set-up sales organizations, OSG brings experience and passion to each client relationship.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sometimes you have to ignore your audience

"If I would have asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses ." -Henry Ford

I love this quote. Why? Simple, Henry Ford didn't have anyone clamoring at him to create the automobile. In fact it didn't make any sense to his audience. But he knew deep down somewhere that the car would create huge opportunities and propel the US forward.

In today's world of focus groups and audience response, we are so defined by what our audience wants. We cannot imagine a context that isn't defined by our customers. But the reality is that the really great innovations did not come about by listening to focus groups. They came about by people responding to that gut level feeling about what was needed "for such a time as this."

I'm not saying that focus groups are bad. But I am saying that just because people don't think they need an innovation doesn't mean you shouldn't develop it. Look at the world around you, look at the challenges and issues of your generation and create out of that opportunity!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rethinking Publishing

I have been focusing much of my innovative energies on new solutions for publishing. Recently I shared a white paper on Cause-Oriented Publishing. Just today I did a guest blog post for Somersault Group (a new publishing services company). Take a moment to read about what it looks like when Publishing turns into Leadership. And thanks to The Somersault Team for letting me be a part of their conversation!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Keep the Innovation . . . Loose the Pride

Have you noticed that so many of the most successful innovators are very self-confident? Well, it makes sense. If you believe that your idea can change the world – that takes quite a bit of confidence.

But here is the question, “How can you build the confidence you need to push new innovations through the pipeline without being prideful?

I wonder if it is possible. The reason is simple. If you spend all day telling yourself and those you are trying to convince that you have the solutions to their problems, you build yourself up until pride is a foregone conclusion.

This is especially true when others encourage you. In innovation work we seem to get two extremes. Either people think we are the best thing that has ever happened to our industry or people think our new ideas are completely worthless. There doesn’t seem to be much in the middle.

The funny thing is innovators have a way of staying confident even when the whole world thinks their innovation is absolutely worthless.

Here are some thoughts on how to remain humble as an innovator:

  1. Hang out with people who are more talented than you are. This helps you see that while you are a very talented person, others are also gifted.
  2. Read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes regularly . . . enough said.
  3. Elevate the idea your innovation represents above your contribution to the idea. This helps keep the cause at the center and you out of that center spot.
  4. Talk to your critics regularly and listen actively.
  5. Ask God to remove pride from your life daily. I would even encourage you to write a special prayer that you put in your Bible so that you can pray an intentional prayer regularly.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Open Sourcing Your Innovations

As many of you know from my last post, we are in a ministry transition right now. Transitions are tough, but one thing they make you do is hone and develop the ideas you really believe in. That is what I want to share about today.

When you have a new innovation that you are nurturing one of the gut reactions is to hide it. You don’t want anyone to steal your idea or, even worse, make fun of it! So many times we develop innovations in secret and wait for the right moment to spring them on the world.

I would like to suggest that this thinking is actually counter productive. In an idea economy, your innovation has real value if it is viable. However, your idea is just that – YOURS. Only you have the experience, understanding, perspective and creativity to design your idea. Even if someone else were to take your blueprint and roll it out, it would be dramatically different from what you would do.

This means that innovative ideas need to be shared openly at the initial stages. Instead of worrying that someone will steal your idea, share it in such a way where you are the only possible owner. That uniqueness and creativity that you bring to your innovation will set it apart and set you apart.

Ok, but you might be asking, “If the idea is mine and unique to me, then why should I let it out there as I am developing it?” My answer is that while the idea is yours and it is very hard to really steal it in today’s idea economy, your idea is a work in progress. It needs refining and it needs other people’s experience and input - a little like open source software needs ongoing development. Your idea is not nearly as good as it could be if it was shared and refined!

Let me give you an example. I have some innovative ideas about the future of publishing in the 21st Century. I’m not sure what God is going to do with those ideas but I am passionate about them and willing to invest time and energy to see them become a reality. So what did I do? I created a white paper sharing my ideas and asking people to engage with me. Then I began to send it out to various people that I trust and that know the publishing industry. Each time they came back with input, I have thought it through, asked the hard questions and made a new version of my white paper. I’m several iterations into the document now.

Each time someone interacted with me on my innovation, my ideas have improved. I have developed a better understanding of publishing and of my unique perspective.

Now let me be clear, don’t hear me saying that you should share everything. If you have a unique business model or some key relationships or pieces of intellectual property that need to be protected, then you need to share those very carefully. However, that should not stop you from sharing your larger idea and being willing to learn from others.

Ok, so now I need to practice what I preach! I have this white paper on Cause-Oriented Publishing and if any of you would like to read it and give me input I would love to share it with you. You can email me at But when you ask, it will come with an expectation:
1. That you will read it and consider the idea seriously.
2. That you will take the time to write me back and share your thoughts honestly.

I look forward to sharing with some of you about my latest innovation!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Transparency in Transition

This is one of those world-colliding, mega-shifting, paradigm-questioning posts that overlays all the different strands of our lives and turns them upside down. It is not so dramatic because of the content but because of the implications that we would like to challenge you to consider just as we are doing the same.

What happens when something challenging and life-changing comes up in your life? What do you tend to do? Most people that we have known tend to hide the challenge.

And they use the following logic in doing so:
1. If people see my life in turmoil they will think there is something wrong with me.
2. If I act confidently then new opportunities will present themselves.
3. What people don’t know won’t hurt them.
4. Besides, I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems.
5. If I share, then when I see “so and so” next it will be awkward.

So as people slog through this recession, many choose to go it alone using one or more of the points I shared above. But if you decide to use this approach, you are missing out!

But before I share why, let me explain why we are writing about this today. As many of you know, Mindy and I have been on a journey. Last year, just as our second book was released (Through the River), we transitioned out of a job that we really enjoyed as Executive Director of Strategic Communication for HCJB Global and went to a fundraising start up. We made this move out of a deep conviction to work together as a team and to learn a discipleship-driven donor development model. However, 8 months into that learning process, the group we joined went through a merger process and several transitions that resulted in the elimination of our job. So here we are, jobless but convinced that God wanted us to make the move and unsure of what He has next in our journey.

It is with that context that we now want to share three reasons why hiding a transition and going it alone are exactly the wrong thing to do:

1. Authenticity: In today’s world where people are surrounded by gimmicks and half-truths, they are searching for authentic voices who speak from their hearts and engage people with truth. But the truth they are looking for is a truth based on humble learning. That is what we learned as we wrote our book: Through the river: Understanding your Assumptions about Truth.

2. Generosity: In our idea economy, you get influence by sharing ideas and then putting those ideas into action in creative and intentional ways. Your transition will birth in you many ideas that need shared and discussed. In fact, as you go through a transition, you will need others to process with and to understand what happened. Your generosity in transition will likely lead to your next opportunity.

3. Innovation: Unless you engage others with what you have been through and the ideas you are developing as a result, there will be little chance for innovation to arise. If you live transparently through your transition, you will have opportunities to share ideas, hone them and possibly apply them in ways you never imagined. It could be that God has allowed you to be in transition so that a new idea can be birthed for His glory. If you spend time on our Innovation in Mission blog, you will notice that disequilibrium is a powerful force for innovation.

We do have one caveat in all of this: transparency, authenticity, generosity and innovation don’t ensure that you won’t get beat up, abused, ignored or drug through a long transition process. In fact, you may have to endure many things you did not expect if you choose this route. However, we can guarantee that you will come out the other end a stronger and more trusted voice for the causes you love. You will certainly be positioned to be a better Kingdom servant than if you deflected and hid during your transition.

So over the next months as we go through this transition, we are committed to being authentic, generous and innovative in our efforts to find out what God has next. And if you have any inputs for us in that journey or any ideas we should consider, we want to hear from you at jonhirst(at)

Our prayer is that this transition in our ministry life will end up inspiring and blessing countless others as we faithfully live out our faith in community.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Innovation in the Global South

You know how you hate to be told the ending of a movie? It really ruins the whole experience. We want to enjoy the whole experience and see where the plot takes us.

But in life, we are not so adventurous. In fact we spend most of our time reducing risk, playing it safe and going down roads we have been down before. It feels safe and comfortable and so we stay on those well-worn paths.

Recently I have been thinking about those paths. I was in Africa last fall and I saw a path wind its way through the red dirt and green foliage and I got to thinking. The innovations that the believers in the Global South will produce won't come from any area we in the West are expecting or have any particular interest in. They will be vastly different.

But they have been slow in coming and I think I know a reason why. When Western ministry organizations come to the Global South to do ministry, they tend to invest in things they care about and believe are innovative. And as we know . . . where the money flows the programs and activity happen.

So we know what is down the asphalt roads that we have built around the world and we inadvertently rebuild those same programs and activities everywhere those concrete roads lead. But what innovations are waiting for the global Church down the red dirt pathways of the world? I have a feeling that we will see some amazing ideas and innovations appear along these paths and they will change the way Kingdom ministry is done around the globe.

So if you work in a Western ministry and you are about to role out what you believe is an innovative solution in a place far away . . . STOP. Ask yourself how you might tap into the innovative streams in the country you want to bless. See where God is leading their hearts and minds before you pull out your wallet or your whiteboard.

You may find that the surprise ending to God's Kingdom work is much more exciting than the ending you had planned!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is your innovation getting lost in between generations?

So let me share with you two situations that I have found all too common. Both of them lead to the stifling of innovation . . . but for different reasons.

Situation 1
A young person full of energy has been up most of the night talking with a friend or two. During that conversation an idea was born. Now that this young person has had some sleep and is properly caffeinated, they go into work and share the idea with an older boss/co-worker/mentor/etc. They excitedly share the 5 minute version of the long discussion and then wait for input. Their eye's dull quickly as the other person shares how they tried something like that 10 years ago with no success and how it would no better work today.

Situation 2
An older person and a younger person are in a meeting at church, a non-profit, a business or any other inter-generational setting. The older person throws some input from their experience into the situation with a desire to see the group learn from their experience. The younger people listen politely and then go on with the discussion without seriously considering the other's idea.

This happens all the time. I didn't use actual years because 1) I would immediately get in trouble for what I consider "old" :) and 2) young and old can vary dramatically in the situations I shared above.

The biggest concern I have related to Kingdom Innovation is that both the energy of young innovators and the wisdom of older innovators are being ignored. In the end amazing ideas are thrown out, not improved on or at least discouraged.

It seems silly that this happens. Both generations know the other has a lot to offer. One is seen as the authority and the other is seen as the future leaders. But for many reasons we do not take advantage of the new thinking of one and the wealth of experience in the other. We also can't imagine a world where the older generation might have the new thinking and the younger generation might have more experience.

So I want to bravely offer these tips as you innovate across generations:
1. Look for a mentor and look to mentor another - no matter what age you are!
2. Take every idea seriously and ask God to show you which ones need to be pursued.
3. Hang out with people in different generations and learn . . . always be learning.
4. Study history because we know no idea is truly new.
5. Look to the future because we know that God has new things for us to do each day.

So how will you use the inter-generational environments you find yourself in to be a better Kingdom worker and innovator?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Innovators own a piece of the conversation

If you look at the research about social media from Forrester in the book Groundswell, you see that most people are content to watch the conversation of others. I'm sure there are many reasons for that. Some are worried about saying the wrong things and others don't want to invest the time. I understand those reasons, BUT I'm here to tell you that if you want to be an innovator YOU don't have that option.

What do I mean? If you want to be an innovator in Kingdom work, you have to own your part of the conversation. That means you have to identify the cause you care about and the area your innovation will focus on and speak into it. In other words, you need to be generous with the area you are studying, working and living in. Only as you own that piece of the conversation, engage others with your ideas and connect with other thinkers will you have the right to present your innovation.

Gone are the days when you went into your garage one day and came out 2 years later with the perfect widget. Today, you have to speak your idea into the community of people who care and work with them to refine and develop it. That might mean that you blog, or that you have a group on facebook or that you even have a group of associates/friends in real life that you brainstorm with. Whatever that looks like for you, it is essential.

But many people will be thinking, "I don't have any avenues for engaging my sphere of influence on the Kingdom innovations that I am working on!" That is a problem. But today I have one option that I want to challenge each of you to consider.

I hope most of you have heard about Lausanne's Third World Congress happening in Cape Town, South Africa this year. This is one of the most significant events to catalyze innovation and thought for global evangelism. I believe that the conversations that are happening right now in their Global Conversation site are key to many new ministry innovations that will launch in the coming years.

At the request of the Lausanne team and as I prayed about how I might help this movement, I am coordinating the Lausanne Bloggers Network. This select group of 50-100 bloggers from around the world will have access to content and speakers and will get the chance to engage their audiences with the ideas coming out of the movement's Global Conversation. This is an amazing platform for you to own a piece of the conversation.

I would love to see 5 or 6 people from our Innovation in Mission team be a part of this network. Please read more about it HERE and contact me through this blog or through the Lausanne link in this sentence to find out more and see if you are a fit for the network.

I believe that this opportunity is going to launch some exciting new voices and help other voices to engage their audiences in the cause of global evangelism.

So here is my question: Is this a platform that God might use as you strive to innovate for Him?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Crisis of Context

One of the greatest challenges to innovation in mission today is our crisis of context. What does that mean you say? Very simple...almost all of the ideas and thinking that circulate today are in snippets.

Think about it:

1. A quote on twitter is just 140 characters of a larger thought.
2. A song on itunes is just one piece of the artist's album
3. A Bible verse taken without those around it share an incomplete truth

And on and on...

Innovation desperately needs context. It is the side stories and the small details around the big idea that inform the new and innovative things. We settle for the soundbites but really what we need are those full body ideas with all of the nuance and the perspectives.

But nuance and perspective take time, consideration and thought. We are short on those things today and thus our innovation suffers.

Here is my challenge to you today:

Pick a key idea that you want to learn about and study it in the whole article...look at a few perspectives...ask a few people what they think.
Your next innovation will be much more significant if you have the context that surrounds it!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Misunderstanding the Moment

"Father, give me eyes to see and a heart to respond to all which will come to me this day. Forbid that I should miss its graces by looking ahead to some tomorrow. Let me accept the newness each moment brings with awareness and gratitude. In the name of the one who makes all things new I pray. Amen" (Disciplines of the inner life)

This prayer really hit me today. I usually miss the graces God has for me on a daily basis. Why do I miss them? Let me contend that I miss them because I misunderstand the moment. In Mark 9:2-8 Peter misunderstood the moment as Jesus stood there transfigured before him. He thought it was a moment to build homes and to establish power when it was really a moment of new understanding and new realization for Peter, James and John.

In our work as innovators we often misunderstand the moment. Even today we will think that we are to aggressively pursue our dream when He wants us to humbly wait. We might think that today is the day when inspiration will hit and miss that inspiration because we were too busy to talk to our neighbor. We might be tired and hope that today will bring no new action when God wants to use this day as a milestone in our journey.

Being in tune with what God will do with each moment of our day is a tremendous challenge. However, it is the challenge of the Kingdom Innovator. Only when we are aware of how God is using the moments in our day will we be available to be part of the innovations that God wants to use to show His glory in this world.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Glimpses of the Kingdom

Would it be too radical to believe that God would utilize the innovation you are working on to communicate to those around you? I would like to contend that many times our innovations provide new and creative glimpses into the Kingdom. Who knows maybe the only interest God has in your innovation is the example it provides.

We are pretty utilitarian so this is hard for us to imagine. But after all. Our God is the one who paid his tax by having his disciple pull the money from a fish! That sure wasn't the most practical way to go about it. But it did teach those who experienced this amazing tax payment some powerful lessons.

What lessons does God want to teach you and others through your innovation?

I was in Sunday School this week at Fellowship Bible Church in Colorado Springs and I came up with one such example that was such an encouragement to me. We all know at least a little about GPS technology. It has revolutionized so much of our mapping software and other key digital tools. We were talking about God's guidance in our lives and it occurred to me that God's Holy Spirit is a lot like a GPS unit in your car. When you begin your relationship with Christ you insert the directions for Heaven. From that point on the Holy Spirit is guiding and directing you towards God and away from the things that might interest us. Even if we get off track in our car, the GPS recomputes how to get to the location and starts us back in the right direction.

What an amazing example of God's faithful and persistent love and guidance in our lives!

What innovations are you working on or interacting with?

How might God use that innovation to point people towards Him?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Highlighting an Innovation in Print on Demand

There are some Kingdom innovations that are game changers. The advances in print on demand definitely fit that category.

Here is why...

  1. You can now deliver ministry resources without any piles of books in your garage or in that back cubicle of the office.
  2. You can now customize books for events and strategic ministry opportunities.
  3. You can take resources that have been inaccessible for a long time and bring them to your key audiences.
One of the innovation leaders in this effort is a company called Snowfall Press. They partner with a nonprofit group called Virtual Storehouse. This nonprofit helps ministries to upload their Scripture/ministry products and offer them for sale online with a direct connection to the print on demand site.

But it is important for you to see why this is innovative. You can upload a print ready pdf of your book, offer it for sale through an online store, which is then custom printed and sent to the address they provide . . . all automated.

I really believe that print on demand innovations like Virtual Storehouse and Snowfall Press are key to streamlining our distribution of Scripture to the people who need them the most. The 20th Century was about mass production, mass distribution and mass marketing. This new century will see a new model. Now it isn't about printing 20,000 Bibles, it is about printing 1 Bible in just the right language, format and context to do effective ministry. Organizations that make this transition away from mass production to customized production will thrive in a world redefined by customization and the global recession.

Take a minute to check them out and see how you might be able to use this innovative service to leverage your Scripture resources for ministry audiences.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Stopping to Celebrate

Well, I'm in a celebratory mood. Probably because it is my birthday this week. But since I'm feeling this way, I want to share with you about the topic of celebration. It is a very important one and one at which we preform very poorly.

"Poorly???" you say...

Yes, we in the innovation business are good at many things. We are good at vision - almost on a daily basis we have a new idea that will change the world. We are good at work ethic - we put in far more hours than we should to see our vision come to reality. We are good at creativity - we see things that everyone else sees in the same old way through a whole set of new eyes.

But when it comes to celebrating we stink. We usually hit the milestone and then look right on past it to the next one. But that is a destination mentality instead of a journey mentality. I hope you know what I mean. We innovators tend to focus on the destination at the expense of the journey. We miss so many of the precious moments of learning, growth and, yes, celebration.

So in light of this fact, I would like to share with you five ways that you can celebrate on the way to seeing your next innovative idea come to fruition.
  1. Launch your project right. Bring your prayer partners and ministry partners together for dinner or just a desert and challenge them to be praying and to seek God for how to proceed.
  2. Pick a random milestone that you meet and bring bagels and coffee for your whole team.
  3. When you get a breakthrough in your innovation, send out an email, facebook status or tweet telling your sphere of influence about what happened. Remember to ask for prayer as you move forward.
  4. Make a list of all the amazing examples of God's faithfulness in your project and share it with those who are involved.
  5. Finally, when the project is done, get all the people that helped you see it through together, thank God for His goodness and PARTY!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Innovation in Suffering

The suffering in Haiti is truly heart wrenching. My family and I are working through it in prayer, action and mobilization, but the facts don't go away. To learn from the event seems predatory and to ignore it seems heartless. But I have been asking myself what a Generous Mind would do and I come back to this--we are called to obey God fully and without reservation where we are with what we have.

So with that in mind I share some innovation thoughts. As I have been thinking and praying about tragedy and suffering I have seen two things in relation to innovation. Both of them have to do with innovation in mobile technology.

The first is that in a time of tragedy and disaster people innovate and create solutions that change the game and bring hope and options to those who are suffering. One amazing example is the way cell phones are being used. It is hard to believe that cell phones even work after such a tragedy, but they have been used in countless ways. One system we should all know about is what Thomson Reuters Foundation used for the first time. The Emergency Information Service (EIS) is providing messages to the countless people who have cell phones (although not much else). These messages give direction for healthcare and provide other informational services at no charge. This is the first time this system has been used and is a major step forward in using mobile technology to respond to a tragedy. We can only imagine the hope it is providing and the lives it will save.

Another amazing innovation in technology for those fortunate enough to have an iPhone when the earthquake hit are the applications that show users how to treat wounds. Compassion's Dan Woolley used an app like this while waiting to be rescued. I am sure we will see many more people step up with new ideas and creative solutions as Haiti is rebuilt.

The second observation about innovation is that tragedies create momentum to take an idea that has already been in existence and propel it into the mainstream. A very good example of this is mobile donations. Before the earthquake giving via your mobile phone was starting to gain ground, but this tragedy has propelled this innovation to a new level. According to mgive the Red Cross has raised 24 million dollars from nearly 2.5 million people via mobile phones. Each person sent a text that gave $10 to the Red Cross's response efforts for Haiti. The Red Cross says that mobile donations are now 25% of total donations for their work in Haiti! These are amazing numbers that happen as a result of a tragedy that mobilizes people to action.

So what do we learn from these two observations? Here is my take-away -- a innovation moves from new idea to a useful and powerful tool when there is a clear and present need. Don't hear me saying that we should pray for tragedies so that our ideas will take off...that is not the point.

But what we can learn is that if we are faithful with what God has put on our heart, even when no one around seems to care or need it, then there may be a moment in time when God chooses to use our life's work to respond to a tragic event. We don't know when our innovation will be needed. But that is not necessarily for us to know. If God has told you to do something, then obedience is in order and He will provide the context for it to glorify Him.

I wonder how long people worked on the technology, platforms and partnerships that would allow the Emergency Information Service or mobile giving to be a reality? Did they know that an earthquake would strike Haiti? Did they understand the significance of their work on those hard days when nothing went right and when the obstacles seemed unreal?

No, but today they can look at their work and say, "God used the work of these hands!" Will you be able to say that someday?

Prayer for Haiti

We are all overwhelmed with the needs in Haiti, but where do we start. We believe firmly that we start with prayer. That is what we are doing in our church and in our family and we would ask you to join us in that. Jon has created a 30 Day Prayer Guide for Haiti with Eric Foley as part of their work with .W (doers of the Word - Take a minute to visit Eric's blog and download the prayer guide. And please be sure to share here how you and your family are responding.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Audacious Approach

Sorry, I couldn't help it. For those of you who don't know I love alliteration. But that is neither here nor there.

Today I want to talk about creating an environment of innovation. I hope you are starting to notice that I spend a lot more time talking about the context than the examples. Examples of innovation are good and I love to highlight cool new things, but the stumbling block to innovation is not a lack of information or ideas. The main stumbling block is creating the right relationships with God, others and our environment to foster missional innovation.

So in that vein, I was at the Panera yesterday with some of the team from Development Associates International (DAI). We were discussing fundraising and technology when Paul Berry shared a personal goal that I just had to share with all of you. So with his permission, I'm sharing his new years resolution.

Usually I role my eyes at resolutions because we all know where they go an the lack of impact they usually have. However, this one had context and a richness of experience that was refreshing. So what was it?

Paul resolved to do something audacious every month this year. He shared how this first month he is building an iphone app. Next month it is learning Greek words and after that who knows. What it is really is not the point at all. The amazing thing about this resolution is that it puts Paul into a posture of learning, risk and creativity that is not normal.

Usually we are stuck in mediocrity of a life that is saturated with the normal. We eat it, drink it and swim in it. No wonder we aren't creative or innovative. We are surrounded by "can't" "don't" or "won't". Somehow if we are going to free our minds to be vessels for God's glory, we have to escape the traps that the world tries to bind us in.

Paul's resolution does that. It puts him in a position where every month he will experience something new, understand something in a different way and meet new people who are struggling through the same thing.

So here is what I want us to do. We have been having some great discussions about innovation and mission over the past days. In the spirit of Paul's resolution, I am asking 12 of you to share one audacious thing that you want to accomplish in the first three months of this year.

12 people and 12 things.

And if you are one of those people, you are agreeing to report back by the end of March with the results of your audacious activity and we will do a blog post with the results of each of your efforts. So who is up for the challenge?

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Friend's Review of Urbana 09

A friend of ours - Paul Borthwick - who wrote the intro to our latest book, Through the River, just shared key observations about this Urbana. Here is his facebook post reprinted with his permission:

URBANA 2009 – Borthwick’s Top 10
Upon returning from Inter-Varsity’s Urbana 2009 Student Mission Convention (more at in St. Louis (December 27th through January 1st), I reflected both personally (to Christie) and publicly (to our Facebook “Team Borthwick”) that I thought Urbana 2009 was “one of the best ever” Urbanas that I’ve attended (and I’ve been at 10 since 1973). Immediately the question came back, “Why?”

Objectively, it was not the largest Urbana on record: the 16,000+ attendees this year is still remarkable but I think that Urbana 2000, 2003, and 2006 were all larger.

Subjectively, I missed being there with Christie as in past Urbanas. And Urbana 09 was not my most significant public ministry role. Nothing will compare to the awesome privilege of giving the call-to-commitment address at Urbana 2000, and though I taught seminars and participated in the Pastor’s Program in 09, I wasn’t in charge of anything. (My friend Ken Fong [Bible expositor, Urbana 2000] & I wanted to start a group of “Urbana has-beens” but no one cared J)

So why one of the best ever? Here are my combined objective-subjective highlights – with a little prioritization:

HIGHLIGHT #10: Convergence. For me personally, God deeply encouraged me by helping me see how the ministry of developing leaders with Development Associates International (DAI) serves the other networks we touch – like Gordon College, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and Urbana. At Urbana 09, I met at least half-dozen college-age children of our peers and DAI support team. I saw former and future Gordon students who are preparing for overseas service. I interacted with leaders DAI has served or will soon be serving in Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, and more. And I met international leaders who have been DAI trainers or students (or both).

HIGHLIGHT #9: A true kaleidoscope of cultural diversity (Revelation 7:9). We were led in worship by a multi-cultural team who led us into a different cultural “neighborhood” in each session. Speakers and teachers came from around the world – Kenya, Hong Kong, the Middle East, Costa Rica, Rwanda, India, and many, many more. One estimate reported that attendees came from more than 100+ countries.

HIGHLIGHT #8: In Christ Alone at communion. Bringing in the New Year with a 16,000 person communion service is always a highlight, but this year was exceptional. While singing “In Christ Alone,” students around us spontaneously stood and lifted their communion cups towards heaven as they belted out the crescendo: “No power of hell; no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand till he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.” Given the dangerous places God will call these students to, it was a profound moment.
HIGHLIGHT #7: Managing tensions of ministry in the modern world. Greg Jao, a brilliant emcee and primary Urbana host, summarized each session by articulating the tensions of living as salt and light in the world. He noted the complexities related to Kingdom living – the Gospel preached and lived, incarnational ministry in the tough places, and balancing our "this world/next world" motivation. He challenged students to wrestle with the Scriptures as they address these global and local realities. One vivid illustration sticks in my mind: one speaker is a zealous advocate of pacifism, but another ministers to gang members and carries his own gun. No easy answers indeed!

HIGHLIGHT #6: Seriously reflective, passionate students. Any Urbana attendee will tell you that the worship is a highlight at every conference, but this year seemed different. Rather than the emotional response of standing ovations after a challenging message, students seemed quieter and more contemplative – as they pondered the meaning for their own lives. Workshops filled to over-flowing, even on the last day. As York Moore ( stated in one of his reports:

Many Inter Varsity staff who have been to Urbanas for decades have said this is the most spiritually hungry group of Urbana students they’ve ever seen. Seminars have been pouring out onto adjacent halls and floors, long lines to get into Bible studies, and students weeping in the main session as speaker after speaker challenged them to live for Christ!

HIGHLIGHT #5: “Live to be forgotten.” Dr. Patrick Fung, International Director of Overseas Missionary Fellowship, told the story of learning of the hundreds of name-less men and women who sacrificed their lives to bring the Gospel to his native China and many other places. Maybe it’s just because I’m 55 and sometimes feeling like a ‘has-been,’ it was a powerful reminder of living with a “Jesus must increase; I must decrease” value system. [For any who have heard the “Make Me a Footnote” sermon on Ananias, it was a loud Amen!]

HIGHLIGHT #4: Connected to history. Maybe it’s just my age again, but I deeply appreciated the intentional commitment to and honoring of those who have gone before us, so that students understood that our contemporary ministry opportunities in the world have often been made possible by others who paid a price. Patrick Fung paid tribute to the sacrifices of Hudson Taylor and the early missionaries to China. Ramez Atallah honored leaders like Rene Padilla and Samuel Escobar for their prophetic call for a holistic Gospel. On decision-day, Dave Howard – who attended the first “Urbana” as a student in 1946 – got front page coverage as he testified to living out the decision he made 63 years ago.

HIGHLIGHT #3: Testimony from Disciple X from Y. I can’t tell you a name nor a location, but I think this testimony – of a family living for Jesus in one of THE most difficult places on earth since the 70’s – was the most profound challenge to long-term obedience that I have ever heard at Urbana.

HIGHLIGHT #2: Jim and Beth Tebbe’s decision. I’ve had the privilege of working with Jim and Beth since he started working with Urbana 2003 as Urbana Director and now V-P of Missions. BUT they provided one of the greatest memories at Urbana 2009 when Jim announced on the call-to-commitment night that they will be leaving Inter-Varsity to go as cross-cultural workers in a very tough place. Jim & Beth are in their later-50’s, but they vividly reminded everyone that openness to God’s call is a lifetime commitment.

HIGHLIGHT #1: Manny. The last time I had a college-age roommate at Urbana, I was 19 years-old myself (Urbana 73). But Manny Arango(see , a senior at Gordon College, accompanied me this year. It was great to see things from his perspective, to learn from him about the challenges young people face, and to let him interact with people I know. We actually got to talk 1-on-1 with Disciple X as well as with David Howard (and actually hold his [now-laminated] 1946 Decision Card!). It was great to be with a young leader who is gifted, understands brokenness, loves Jesus, and is looking for God’s direction for the “what’s next?” of life. [It also helped that we have very similar commitment to laughing loud and often!]

Talk to me in a week and I’m sure my list might be a little different, but that’s it for today.

As always, thanks for your prayers, interest in us, and financial support.


Paul Borthwick (January 3, 2010)