Innovation and creativity are credited with much of the vast material wealth and cultural richness that has been built in the West.
There are multiple theories to explain this phenomenon, but in my experience, this dynamic stems from the nature of God, the first Creator.
As said in Genesis 1:1-5 New International Version (NIV): In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.
This God has creative energy so mighty that he merely needs to speak and the universe responds in creation. He creates “ex nihilo,” or out of nothing. The God of the Bible incarnates this creative impulse. Businesses, their leaders and associates create value from God’s creation in the form of continuously improving products and services. Men seem compelled to create, and where there is political and religious freedom, humankind has flourished.
God asserts that he made man in his own image, a creator, in Genesis 1:26 (NIV): Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
I grew up working for a family-owned company called UnionTools, a manufacturer of tools for lawn, garden, farm and industry. I worked in a factory during summer breaks and developed a deep love for manufacturing processes — forging, metal stamping, welding, machining, wood milling, etc.
Our own children were forced to take the occasional factory tour during our family vacations: Thos. Moser furniture factory in Maine one summer, Boeing’s wide-body airliner factory in Everett, Washington, on another.
The rapid pace of innovation on the factory floor validates the Genesis verse in which God said man would be a creator like him. Some create in the classroom. Some in the kitchen. Some in factories. Some create in the context of discipleship relationships.
And what do disciple-makers create? When they are successful, they create mature, replicating Christian saints. 2 Timothy 2:2 says that we are to “entrust the Word to reliable people who will be qualified to teach others.” St. Paul was a tent manufacturer, and I imagine he discipled many young tentmakers into mature Christians in the midst of that very setting.
In my 35-year career in business, I have had the good fortune to observe several innovative businesses.
I worked for Cummins Engine Co., when it converted a product, which was almost outlawed by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s for the tons of carcinogens diesel engines poured into the atmosphere, into the contemporary diesel engine, which, in certain cities, emits cleaner air from its exhaust than it breathes in.
In the last 30 years, Cummins Inc. created a fuel system and other ingenious innovations that improved the thermal efficiency of their engines. Their share of global market for diesel engines and its stock price have soared. Innovation transformed a fuel-thirsty, black soot-belching engine into one of the cleanest-burning, fuel-sipping power plants available in the market.
The most successful and creative business leader I have met, however, is Dr. R. Stanley Tam, who built a business in Lima, Ohio, called United States Plastic Corp.
Stanley loves Jesus Christ and may have been the first businessman to learn how to allow God to legally own his company; an innovation to be sure. We invited Stanley to Columbus seven years ago to speak to over 200 business people. He led 22 individuals to receive Jesus Christ as savior that afternoon, and it is safe to say that he has led many thousands to Christ over his long lifetime. Additionally, Stanley has generously funded dozens of ministries around the world to advance the gospel.
I asked Stanley that day as I drove him back to the airport how many people he thinks he may have helped lead to Christ, and while he gave the Holy Spirit full credit, he was confident that, including the ministries he has helped to fund, the number has six figures. Mark 10:29-30 states: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — along with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life.”
The economics of working for Jesus in this life are far more compelling than any job we may be hired to perform or even build for ourselves.
Jesus promises “a hundred times” return when we work for him. And according to this verse, these benefits accrue to Christ followers in this life and in the age to come, eternity or heaven. For the mathematicians in the crowd, that is a 10,000 percent return and, significantly, it not guaranteed by the FDIC. It is guaranteed by the same God whose power spoke the universe into existence.
Apostle Paul and Stanley Tam worked in an environment designed for manufacturing and innovation, but these men understood the Great Commission and decided to “create disciples of Jesus Christ” in the very midst of their factories.
Why? Because they agreed with God about what the most important product one can create: mature, replicating Christian saints, who are the raw material from which God builds the Church of Jesus Christ.
As Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) says, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
• David Durell lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he and his wife, Anne, are engaged with a growing team of local church, parachurch and marketplace leaders who are praying for Jesus to redeem their city. Dave attended Williams College. He and Anne raised three children who, by the grace of God, are all Christian disciple-makers. Anne and Dave help co-lead a home-based church affiliated with Xenos Christian Fellowship. Dave also serves on the board of trustees for Mission Columbus, Hillsdale College, The Acton Institute and Mercy Medical Center Cambodia.
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