As long as our vision remains unachieved, we are restless. We seek relentlessly to learn, adapt, and grow. Our goals are so compelling and human suffering so pervasive that we are unsatisfied with the status quo. With entrepreneurial eyes, we are careful to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16). With creativity, we build new partnerships that strengthen capacities. With imagination, we embrace leading-edge ideas that enhance the quality of our ministry.
Innovation is a perpetual buzzword. The value we place in innovation always has a hashtag. And everybody believes they’re innovative.
Why is it, then, that so few people really are?
While you’re thinking about that, think about this. In John 4:1-15, Jesus, all by himself, stops at a well in the land of outsiders called Samaria, and asks a woman, all by herself, for a drink. Sir, the woman asks him, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
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How does anybody draw water without a bucket? Innovation, perhaps?
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman reveals two things about innovation. Innovation requires a free and open willingness to engage the “other”… those who are different, who are not-us, those who are beyond our sphere of influence, whom we cannot control. It means we have to be willing to not only “go through Samaria,” but be willing to sit there awhile, in a place that doesn’t always feel like home.
And innovation requires access to living water. Living water is, literally, moving water. We need to develop the agility to be ready to move, to find the places where water is moving. And we have to be willing to keep moving when we reach the places where water stops. Because stopped water is often deadly water. Perhaps this is why many churches have baptismal fonts with moving water. Moving water is water alive, and it gives life.
This is why the primary human faculty for innovation is not reason but imagination. Life requires a restless, relentless creativity — a fierce imagination that many may possess but few truly exercise — to find the wherewithal to draw water without a bucket.