Book Recommendation: Innovation in World Mission by Derek T. Seipp

Book Recommendation: Innovation in World Mission by Derek T. Seipp

Innovation in World Mission: A Framework for Transformational Thinking about the Future of World Mission. By Derek T. Seipp. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2016, 2733 locations, $9.95 Kindle edition.


What does the future of world mission look like?  In Innovation in World Mission, Derek T. Seipp aims to answer this crucial question by examining current global trends. Seipp focuses heavily on a principle he calls “strategic drift”, or the widening gap “between what we actually do and what needs to be done (Kindle location 152).” He argues that the Church has been far more reactive than proactive when it comes to developing new strategies for missions. The book relies heavily on anecdotes from the business world to explain the dangers of not looking forward to the future. While Seipp does develop his thoughts by examining the Scripture, it is obvious that much of his thinking on innovation has been shaped from his experience in the business world.

The book is divided into 8 chapters, with chapter 1 being the most informative and chapter 8 being the most applicative. Throughout the book, however, Seipp instructs the reader to put the book down, think critically, even complete a project before continuing. I think many readers will find this helpful as they try to practice the skill of innovation in their own lives.

Chapter 1 explains the nature of our “changing world” and why innovation has been important since the beginning of time. The Creator God has created us in His image, “and we were called to be creative. When we apply that creativity to work, we simply call it innovation (Kindle location 216).” Seipp believes that a failure to innovate stems from a lack of awareness and will result in an unpreparedness for the future (Kindle location 244). In the business industry, the things that worked yesterday, may not work today. Seipp explains that “world mission is not less immune to these changes (Kindle location 189).” With several real-world examples, chapter 1 serves as a wake-up call for the global and local Church to innovate now.

Chapter 2 deals with the “mega-trends” that are contributing to the various changes we see in the world today and how these trends are affecting the Church and its mission. While only six mega-trends are listed in this chapter (globalization, technology, economic change, deculturation and reculturation, mobility, and environmental change), Seipp explains that the list is not exhaustive (Kindle location 272). I found it telling that he chose to write first and focus heavily on globalization. Globalization is good for global business: it helps stimulate global economies and essentially levels the playing ground for the poor and marginalized who previously had no opportunities (Kindle location 294). Yet, “Globalization is also changing the problems we face. Prostitution rings are now global in nature (Kindle location 320).” Seipp does a good job of explaining both the pros and cons of each trend; or it could be said that he demonstrates how they all come with their blessings and curses.

Chapter 3 also focuses on mega-trends, but specifically those to watch for within Christendom. Seipp spends much of the chapter discussing changes occurring within the confines of missionary sending and the current climate of the American church. Being that I am a 24-year-old American missionary, I felt as though this chapter was written about me. At various times, I would audibly say “that is so true,” or I would immediately share a passage with my wife for her consideration. Regardless of age or profession, readers of this book will find Seipp’s commentary in this chapter to be spot on, if not prophetic. I must also commend him for staying impartial while discussing some of the hot-button issues within the American church (e.g. rise of Pentecostalism and New Calvinism). However, the same cannot be said of the discussion of the shift in the American Church’s understanding of Missio Dei. Seipp seemed troubled by the reality that many young missionaries are bypassing mission agencies and “the wisdom and experience from a long history of mission involvement (Kindle location 791).” Time will tell if his cause for concern is warranted.

Chapter 4 explains the vital role innovation has played throughout Church history. The Apostle Paul is sited as a Gospel innovator, whose courage to “stand up” contributed to the conversion of Roman Empire (Kindle location 833).  Seipp also takes this opportunity to appeal to the Old Testament to support his thesis, most notably 1 Chronicles 12:32. Seipp believes that the men from Issachar’s ability to “understand the times and know what Israel should do” was a prime example of innovative thinking. Seipp will go on to site this passage several more times in the book. I noticed that Seipp stressed heavily that innovation is a trained skill. He also emphasized the need for “an entire organization of transformative leaders (Kindle location 905).” There is tremendous wisdom is discussing these issues with other godly innovators. However, it is difficult to understand how to carry these principles over into the local church whose leadership differs from that of businesses and para-church organizations. Perhaps Ephesians 5:21 is the key to applying these principles in every area of life.

Chapters 5 and 6 are more explanatory than others, but for the benefit of the student of innovation. In Chapter 5, Seipp explains the role of research in decision-making and ultimately seeking God’s will. A company or business that neglects research is susceptible to “creative destruction.” In other words, “the creativity of one company of organization causes the destruction of another (Kindle location 956).” Seipp claims the principle also applies to ministries and non-profits. If the non-profit’s supporters are not engaged by the “story” they will take their money elsewhere; to put it simply: innovate or die (Kindle location 1049).  The rest of chapter deals with s-curves and the importance of capitalizing on the life cycle of a product or idea. I have personally seen s-curves being incorporated in Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) leadership training. In chapter 6, Seipp provides tools (scan hits, impact maps, and plausible scenarios) to help the Church innovate with the future in mind. This chapter is quite technical; it may seem out of place in a mission(s) textbook; however, I think it helps drive Seipp’s point home about looking to the future. It could be said that Innovation in World Mission is timely, ahead of its time, or a mixture of both.

Chapters 7 and 8 brings the book to a close by providing examples of ways to practically implement the information from the rest of the book. Seipp points to organizational leadership for successful innovation in chapter 7. He devotes a lot of time to the value of learning and dialogue within these organizations (Kindle location 1912). I found this chapter to be a little redundant a times, but I can’t deny its truthfulness regarding innovation within missions. Chapter 8 wraps things up nicely by recapping the content from the other chapters. Seipp does an excellent job of encouraging the reader to experiment, but on a small, focused scale at first. He also makes clear that failure is a good thing; it is “an opportunity to grow (Kindle location 2091).” Seipp closes out by looking to the cross. “If God simply drew a line from our past, he would have never sent his Son (Kindle location 2157).” Seipp seems to be saying that the things/ideas/events that change the world come from drawing a line from the future to today.

I would recommend Innovation in World Mission not only to new missionaries, like myself, but to anyone curious about where our world is headed. It is a wonderful resource for the local and global Church to take a step back and look at its current course. If I have any critique it would be for Seipp to have spent more time examining the Scripture. Occasionally, I felt as though he was reading some of his personal biases into the text; yet, nothing he said ever made me feel uncomfortable. Overall, Innovation in World Mission is a quick read that will help train many new innovators to carry out the Great Commission in new and exciting ways.

The Fragrance of Christ

The Fragrance of Christ

 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. 2 Corinthians 2:12-16a NLT


In the ancient days of Rome, whenever a military general won a major victory for the empire, he would be celebrated and paraded through the streets of Rome. One of the ways people would know that the triumphal procession had begun was the sweet smell of incense coming from the pagan altars throughout the city. For the people of Rome this was the scent of victory. There armies had prevailed over their foes! However, for those who had been captured in battle this scent meant utter defeat. It was the aroma of certain death.

The Apostle Paul said that we are the fragrance of Christ among all people (2 Corinthians 2:12-17). Take a moment to ponder this truth. We smell of our Savior. We are like perfume wafting all over the earth. The aroma testifies to the fact that Christ is victorious over sin and death. They are defeated foes! To some, we are the most pleasing fragrance that they have ever known. But to others, we smell as putrid as a rotting corpse. Either you want to wear the perfume for all of eternity or want nothing more than to rid yourself of the stench.

Brothers and sisters, if this is who we are in Christ then we be about going. We must go where the fragrance of Christ has never been encountered. In some parts of the world, they haven’t even caught a whiff of Jesus. The have no idea that Jesus has won the victory. The only thing worse than someone thinking the fragrance of Christ is revolting is someone never getting the opportunity to decide for themselves. The Lord is diffusing His people in all the world to make Christ’s name known. Church, what good is perfume if it never leaves the bottle?

Lord, Send Someone Else

Lord, Send Someone Else

It is no secret that foreign mission work is difficult. It requires you to move away from your friends and family, away from the comforts of home. Upon stepping off the plane you are immediately thrown into a whole new world. The food is different. The smells are different. They don’t speak English everywhere. They drive on the other side of the road. In some areas, maybe they don’t have electricity. They worship false gods. It is so easy to say, “Lord, I just don’t think I am cut out for this. Surely, there are more qualified people who You can send.” We look at ourselves in the mirror of the task at hand and we start pointing at all of our weaknesses. We think our weaknesses will somehow prove to God that we aren’t the ones he wants, like we know better. You see, we like to use our weaknesses to make excuses, but God wants to use them to demonstrate His power.

Remember what Moses said to God that day at the burning bush? Moses, one of the greatest and godliest men in all of history actually told God to “send someone else (Exodus 4:13).” Was it because He didn’t know God was truly with Him? No! YHWH (I AM WHO I AM) was speaking to Him from a burning bush that wasn’t being consumed. God had shown him that he would confirm Moses’ words with signs and wonders (staff turning into the serpent, Moses’ hand becoming diseased then healed again, God’s promise to turn the Nile water to blood). Even after God reassured Moses that He would help him to speak and teach him what to say, Moses still asked God to send someone else. It was never truly about weakness. It was always a matter of willingness.

The Bible says that God’s anger burned against Moses over his unwillingness (Exodus 4:14). As a result, God told Moses to tell his brother Aaron about the things he heard from Him. Aaron was a gifted speaker, so he would the spokesperson. This seemed like a good idea. Moses hears from God, Moses tells Aaron, and Aaron tells the people. But this isn’t what God had initially commanded Moses in verse 12:

Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say (my emphasis added).”

And as we see later on in the Old Testament, Moses would face many problems because of his brother. Aaron was the one who led the construction and worship of the golden calf. Aaron’s sons tried to worship God with strange fire and were killed for it. Aaron even led a rebellion against Moses at one point. Aaron’s ability didn’t necessarily produce a willingness to follow God’s commands. Moses would learn this the hard way.

If God calls you to go, then He wants to use you—with all of your weaknesses and shortcomings. He knows that you can’t do it in your own strength. That’s the point! There has only ever been one perfect missionary and His name is Jesus. Moses led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, but only Jesus can lead people out of slavery from sin. This is the message we have been given to tell the nations: “Jesus can set you free! He did it for me.” When that is your focus, all of the difficulties about got to live in a foreign land seem to fade into the periphery. All of your weaknesses, doubts, and insecurities become in some ways irrelevant. The God of the universe has called you out; He wants to use you as His messenger to the nations. How can we make excuses when people are perishing? The only acceptable response to God is one of willingness: “Please, Lord, send me!”

Burnt World Map

When Sin Goes Unchecked the Nations Suffer

Like yesterday’s blog, I was inspired to write after having seen something on my Facebook feed. However, today’s topic is not about an up-and-coming musician, rather it is a cautionary tale for up-and-coming ministers of the Gospel. News broke today that former Southern Baptist Seminary professor, David Sills (who resigned 9 months ago), resigned due to an inappropriate sexual relationship with former student, Jennifer Lyell, that lasted over a decade. If you would like to read the report, here is the link. I do not know either of the people involved, personally, but as a Southern Baptist, I do know people who do. Some of them have already shared with me about how shocked they were to find this news out. And since I do not know what really happened, I will not speculate beyond what information has been made public. All we know right now is that the affair began in 2004 while the two were on a mission trip.

Some people on Facebook were saying that it is insane that this man’s life is being ruined, while this “girl” (who is now in her 40s, mind you) gets off scot-free. One commenter said that “they were both consenting adults, so why does she get to play the victim?” First, we don’t know all the details. Second, although the student may have been 26 when the affair began, she was still a student and he was her professor. We cannot overlook the reality that Dr. Sills was someone she trusted and was viewed as an authority figure. The fact is, he failed her as a professor and he failed her as a brother in Christ, regardless of her willingness to participate. 

Listen folks, no one is safe when it comes to temptation. Not me, not you. Temptation doesn’t care how long you’ve been a Christian. It doesn’t care how many people you’ve led to the Lord. And it certainly doesn’t care about your Bible degrees and accolades. Sin is always crouching at the door—we must rule over it (Genesis 4:7). And when it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission, if there is any hidden sin in our lives, it will inevitably ruin our witness. If we want the people God is calling us to reach to trust us, we have to be trustworthy. I’m talking truly trustworthy and holy before God! This veneer of holiness will not cut it. Know that I am preaching to myself here, too. If we want to reach the nations for Christ, we must make a priority of killing sin in our lives with the Sword of the Spirit. 

My prayers go out to the hurting families, churches, and communities that have been and will be affected by this revelation. I find hope in knowing that God’s love can cover a multitude of sins, can heal all wounds, and can forgive the most egregious of wrongdoings. Even still, may there be a flood of justice within our churches and denominations as we seek to address more unchecked sin. It will be painful. It will be costly. But, ultimately, it will set us free.

Spare me the sound of your songs. I won’t listen to the music of your harps. 

But let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5:23-24