The Church after Innovation
Questioning Our Obsession with Work, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship
by Andrew Root
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Pub Date 20 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 20 Nov 2022
Baker Academic & Brazos Press, Baker Academic
In this follow-up to Churches and the Crisis of Decline, leading practical theologian Andrew Root delves into the problems of innovation. He explores where innovation and entrepreneurship came from, shows how they break into church circles, and counters the "new imaginations" like neoliberalism and technology that hold the church captive to modernity. Root reveals the moral visions of the self that innovation and entrepreneurship deliver--they are dependent on workers (and consumers) being obsessed with their selves, which leads to significant faith-formation issues. This focus on innovation also causes us to think we need to be singularly unique instead of made alive in Christ. Root offers a return to mysticism and the poetry of Meister Eckhart as a healthier spiritual alternative.
“This book will help you to consider the possible costs of chasing innovation and entrepreneurship—for you and your church. By tracing their origins, Andrew Root invites readers to examine the ends and aims of both innovation and entrepreneurship. Rather than helping the church and its congregants to thrive, unreflective practices of innovation and entrepreneurship can shift values and loyalties, and along the way contribute to anxiety, depression, and an overinflation of the self which works against genuine formation of the self in Christ. The Church after Innovation provides significant insights and questions regarding some of the most pressing challenges of our time.”—Angela Williams Gorrell, assistant professor of practical theology, Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University
“There’s something satisfying about a story that is this big, bold, and revealing about how our cultural presumptions came to be—especially when so beautifully told. Root’s grand narrative offers the significant benefit of showing in fine-grain detail why Christians who do not account for the shaping effects of our economic practices evacuate the content of the Christian confession. When Christians fall in love with ideas of leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship, we can be sure they have ignored for too long the secular economic context in which they live and breathe. A timely wake-up call.”—Brian Brock, professor of moral and practical theology, School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen
“This perceptive and engaging book is a godsend for leaders and pastors seeking to cultivate the life of the church in a contemporary Western context. In a market saturated with quick-fix, innovate-or-die polemics on church growth, Root weaves a more nuanced philosophical and cultural critique of the captivity of innovation in capitalist culture with the theological insights to liberate the creativity we actually need. The tongue-in-cheek real-life stories of people like us struggling with this task humorously but effectively emphasize the real-world need for such a view of innovation and change. This book offers a richer path to help realize a transcendent creativity of epiphany (over innovation) that values people, nurtures personhood, and promotes flourishing for the church in a secular age.”—Nick Shepherd, FRSA, senior vision and strategy consultant, Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England
“With penetrating analysis and prophetic force, Andrew Root exposes how the false idols of capitalism are being smuggled into the church through the Trojan horses of innovation and entrepreneurialism. Fashionable trends touting church ‘growth’ are fueling self-absorption and drawing us away from the cross of Christ. This is a bold, necessary, and urgent book.”—Richard Beck, professor of psychology, Abilene Christian University; author of Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age
“Have you ever read a book and thought, ‘This is on point and I wish I wrote it’? That’s what happened to me when I finished The Church after Innovation. Ministers hear so many leadership mantras today: Innovate! Be efficient! Get creative! Time to pivot! Find your voice! Be authentic! In this book, Root reveals these mantras and the engine that generates them to be the problem. They are not the jewelry but the chains that keep the church captive to a soul-sucking culture. Seminaries need to assign this book. Ministers need to read this book. I’m grateful to Root for so powerfully articulating the biggest problem facing the church—namely, our supposed need to innovate.”—Tripp Fuller, founder and host of the Homebrewed Christianity podcast
“Peppered with real-life examples, Andrew Root’s The Church after Innovation opens up innumerable pathways of faithful thought and action for our exhausting times. Root is especially adept at exposing and probing the cultural contradictions of neoliberal capitalism, exploring how they have shaped (and warped) the mission of the church and our very selves. Come for that critique and stay for fascinating dives into management theory, the promise of nothingness, the mystics behind Martin Luther, and so much more. This important book is worthy of reading and rereading.”—Rodney Clapp, author of Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age
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Andrew Root's Church after Innovation is an interesting and incredibly in-depth discussion of the causes and possible effects of a church that is increasingly focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. This theological work is born of various conversations Root had where he heard people both hailing innovation as the Church's savior and those who viewed innovation as the millstone around the neck of the Church.
It's important to note that this book is very in-depth. Root traces the question of innovation and how it became rooted in Church-thought to its earliest traces and is incredibly deft in citing both theologians, economists, philosophers, etc. While this might disappoint those readers who are only looking for how to respond to the Church's new innovative streak, Root makes clear how each of these seemingly disparate threads are vital in understanding how we got to where we are and what the possible consequences (good and bad) might be if the church continutes to weave entrepreneurship and innovativeness into it's DNA. Root makes this whole process look easy which I think says something very important about how good of a theological writer he is. He also skillfully weaves anecdotes and practical experience into this book in a way that doesn't devalue his academic work but instead bolsters it (which as someone who has read a lot of theological writing is a rare feat).