What Snowboarding Teaches Us About Innovation

When I was only one year old there was a debate happening about the role of snowboarding in our culture and on our ski slopes. Check out this video from 1985.

The video ends with the reporter asking, “Do you see any compromise in the future at all?” The person representing skiing replies, “No. No. Skiing is becoming more and more popular and if these boards become more and more popular it’s going to be more hassles, more confrontations, so we’d just like to say, ‘we don’t want them at all.’”

It is fascinating to look back and see how innovation is often feared. Safety becomes a reoccurring theme whenever anyone steps up and challenges the status quo.

Think of two relatively new companies, Uber and Airbnb. How many of us ten years ago ever thought we’d get in a car to hitch a ride with a stranger that wasn’t driving a taxi? How many of us thought we’d stay over at some random persons personal house or apartment? Yet, these innovations challenged all the naysayers proclaiming, “No one would do that, it isn’t safe.” They found ways to do it, and in relatively safe ways. Even more, the market has spoken, we participated and continue to participate in these new ideas.

The same thing happened with snowboarding years ago. Based on this video it would’ve shocked nearly everyone, including the snowboarders, to get a glimpse into the future of snowboarding.

  • Snowboarding became an olympic sport in 1998 (just thirteen years after this video).

  • “Approximately 97% of all ski areas in North America and Europe allow snowboarding, and more than half have jumps, rails and half pipes.” (Wikipedia: Snowboarding)

  • In the 2010-2011 snowboarding season there were 8.2 million participants (NY TIMES)

  • Not to mention Shaun White is a household name.

Snowboarding is no longer the fresh new innovative thing. But we can learn from the rise of snowboarding and the ever present challenge to innovative new ideas. Three things you’ll likely hear one way or another.

1 - “YOUR IDEA WON’T WORK!”

As Taylor Swift says, “Haters gonna hate.” If you are doing anything new and worthwhile it will likely bring about those who are gonna hate on it. It doesn’t mean they are monsters or against you. It may just mean they haven’t caught the vision you have for where this thing is going. Maybe you are able to help them catch the vision and maybe not. It is my guess that the dude in the video wasn’t going to come around to the idea of snowboarding over hot cocoa with some snowboarders. Learn who your haters are, those who aren’t going to get it, and learn how to block them out. The mid to late adopters are the ones you want to share the vision with, even if they are apprehensive or against it initially. Apprehension is not shade. Getting these mid or late adopters in your corner makes a huge difference because once on board they are loyal and committed to the idea.

2 - “IT ISN’T SAFE!”

I am not sure what you are innovating. Maybe safety is a huge issue in your leadership lane and you really do have to consider this, but often it is an excuse to remain committed to the status quo. In my line of work safety is often labeled as remaining doctrinally sound or rooted in scripture. While I respect and understand these sentiments, there are also many innovations the church has experienced over 2,000 years that were considered heresy at the time of their inception. Many of those innovations are now considered proper doctrine and rooted in scripture, and even if they aren't, they are no longer questioned as legitimate. Your industry likely has a similar cyclical history. The cry for safety can often the enemy of innovation. No matter what innovation you’re working with, there is always an element of risk to anything new. So ask yourself, “Am I willing to take a risk to try a new approach and step into an innovative method?”

3 - “JUST WAIT, IT ISN’T THE RIGHT TIME YET!”

Change is going to happen. If you’ve caught the vision then don’t wait. We often desire tons of affirmation before we move on something that is risky. We want to make sure we got the roadmap all laid out before we start the car and begin moving. The problem with this is that innovative leadership is partly visionary and partly reactionary. When you are disrupting a market or a church system there is no way to know how your vision is going to be received. It will require a level of reactionary leadership as the environment shifts and changes. It could at times get more volatile, or you could be accepted, therefore your platform/market share elevated. These potential outcomes will require new approaches and methods. So don’t wait until you have the road map, because usually the path you lay out initially isn’t the one you will actually travel. Go for it. If you have an innovative vision for something new, put the car in drive and get moving, but keep looking forward and reacting to the change of scenery.

Snowboarding teaches us a lot about innovation. What are you learning about innovation?

Are We Being Consumed By Consumerism?

I remember last year when my wife Brittney and I just happened to stumble into the Black Friday left overs. The grandparents were watching the kids and we were headed out to dinner while on vacation to enjoy the rare kid free moment to ourselves. 

The restaurant we went to was right next to an outlet mall and we decided we’d walk the outlet mall after dinner. We’d completely forgot it was Black Friday. We were in vacation mode and it just wasn’t on our mind. 

The sun was going down as we came up to the parking lot, and it was nearly full, but you could tell the rush was over. The residue of chaos lingered in each store we entered and the items left on shelves were all kinds of disorganized. 

I was resolved not to buy anything and then I saw them. A sweet pair of kicks. The shoes were my size and only $25. I contemplated for a good 20 minutes on whether or not to get them. Am I participating in the greedy capitalism machine by making a Black Friday purchase? Will I get these shoes someday anyway and just pay about 4 times as much? 

I had all kinds of questions. 

But seriously, I was conflicted. I eventually made the purchase. But I didn’t have that feeling I had in the past when I participated fully in Black Friday. A feeling I think Macklemore describes well in his song Wings with lyrics like, “My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it.” And likely the most haunting line, “Consumption is in the veins.” 

If we are all honest with ourselves we’ve likely had a consumption in the veins kind of moment a few times in our lives. I find that with the onslaught of stuff coming our way on days like today, when Black Friday has turned into 6pm on Thanksgiving because consumerism is so much in our veins we will sacrifice our time with our families for that deal, for that rush. And I’m preaching to myself, I’m just as susceptible to the drug of more, or a good deal. All of us are at risk of being consumed by consumerism. 

Maybe it is good to go get the deals late Thursday and early Friday, and even the left overs late Friday night. I don’t know. I do know that as we pillage the sales this holiday season we are in deeper risk of having our souls pillaged. As we seek our material gain we are more likely to look less human and care less for our fellow human. 

So may you pillage the deals as your conscience allows over these next few days. But beware, and be on guard, that your spirit isn’t pillaged in the process. Or as Jesus said it, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

May you resist the lie that your life exists in the abundance of deals provided over these next few days. 

And may you remember that thankfulness is the posture we are called to in this season, so find ways to grow in gratitude and share that reality with others. 


The Engle Evangelical Octagon

Perry Engle gave a talk today titled, “Charting a Course to Rediscover the ‘Evangel’ at the Heart of Evangelicalism” at the 2018 Sider Institute Study Conference. He shared his eight ways that Evangelicalism can be a Prophetic Witness in the world today.


I made this fun graphic to help Perry further convey his points.

Voting & The Image Of God

Today I voted.

As I was waiting in line this morning to vote, I was reflecting on the past couple years and all that has gone on in our country and in my own spirit. While reflecting, I thought to myself, “Voting should never surpass my call to see the image of God in ALL people.” This thought isn’t profound, it is just perspective on a day and season that often lacks so much perspective.

As followers of Jesus we believe that ALL people are created in the image of God. We believe that God deeply loves ALL of creation. What this means is that ALL people have unsurpassable worth in the eyes of God. If we desire to see the world as God sees the world then maybe the most difficult discipline and practice is to challenge ourselves to see ALL people the way God sees them.

May you come to know that Clinton, Trump, Obama, and every other political candidate, no matter what party or policy they represent, is an image bearer of God with unsurpassable worth in the eyes of God. And if this news is hard for you to hear, as it has been for me at times in the last few years, then maybe election day is an opportunity for us both to consider what this reveals about our own spirits.

Maybe we can actually take an often divisive day like election day and grow in love and care toward each other despite our many differences. And who knows, it could be that our vote has a lasting impact, but there is no doubt that loving people, even difficult people, has a lasting impact.

"You know God hates tattoos right?!"

“You know God hates tattoos right?!” Yup, someone actually said that to me once while gazing at my tattoo.  A friend reached out to me on Facebook when she saw I finished up my sleeve tattoo. She wondered how a Pastor explained having tattoos. Having tattoos herself, she has always seen them as anti-faith or anti-God since many she has known, who have faith, are so convinced it is evil. I told her I would respond to her questions, and this is my response to her; as well as, to all of those who might be in her shoes.

1. The Bible has far more warnings on Judging Others than Tattoos. 

Right after I got my first tattoo I was in a fast food restaurant and I went to pay the clerk, and she grabbed my hand. My tattoo was on my wrist so she pulled it closer to get a better look. Then she said, “Awesome, I love it.” Kind of caught me off guard, then she asked what it meant. I told her it was the trinity symbol which represents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit which are all one. Then I slowly saw a confused look start to come over her face. She asked me, “Are you a Christian?”  I said yes. Then she proceeded to tell me that Christians can’t have tattoos, it is against God and against the Bible; even though, a few seconds before she was telling me how cool my tattoo was.  I guess if I was a pagan then it was totally rad, but as a follower of Jesus, not so rad.

I didn’t have any time to go into detail with her, so I just walked away and said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” I felt judged. I mean, I felt the full weight of someone pretty much saying you did something that God hates. This new thing on my wrist that I was still becoming comfortable with actually caused me some pain beyond the needle which marked it.

Jesus talked about judging others this way in Matthew 7, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

2. The Bible says very little about tattoos, but there is that one verse. 

The Bible is actually pretty silent on the matter of tattoos, except for one verse in Leviticus. It is probably important to stop here and mention that if any particular topic starts with The Bible being fairly silent on the matter except for one verse in Leviticus, I am guessing the verse is not the most helpful to orient our lives around today. Leviticus was a book for a people under a certain covenant. A commitment God made to them and they made to God. This was before Jesus, before the cross, before Jesus said, “You have heard it said, but I tell you…” so many times in that one sermon.  None of us orient our lives around the book of Leviticus. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a great and necessary book, but it must be understood for the time and place it went down, not as a book of application for the hear and now. If you just pull any verse out of Leviticus and then continue to use it to defend or support your position, then you might be on shaky ground, unless of course it is something that is found in multiple other Biblical passages.

Leviticus 19 is where our particular passage turns up. Before examining the passage that proves God hates tattoos, lets look at one of the passages found in the same chapter. Leviticus 19:26 says, “Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.” If you are one of those people who like your steak well done, then you are not in conflict with Leviticus, but if someone at your table likes it rare, then you may have to remind them about how God hates rare steaks.

Leviticus 19:28 says, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” This passage seems clear enough. “Do not.” God said it, it is true, so don’t tattoo. See what I did there, it rhymes. Well, it isn’t quite that simple and easy. Leviticus 19:27, which is the verse immediately before, reads this way, "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” Men, have you ever clipped the sides of your beard? Then you are in violation of the same section of Levitical law as tattooing or cutting yourself.

3. The Bible calls us to something higher than rule following.

Why is it mentioned in Leviticus if it isn't relevant today? One of the key things we are told about the people of God, and the church, is that we are set apart. God is constantly trying to get Israel to live into their identity as set apart. The pagan worshippers of the day cut the sides of their beards, and even cut themselves, and of course marked themselves permanently. God commands Israel to keep away from these things because participating would identify them with pagan gods.  It would be the marking of the pagans. Or the facial hair stylings of the pagans. It is less about the facial hair or tattoo and more about being set apart.

We are still called to be set apart today. Yet, we hold this understanding quite differently than Levitical law. In following Jesus we are called to a different life, one set apart, but not by a refusal to eat meat with blood in it, a commitment to not shave the sides of our beards, or a determination to never allow a needle to tattoo our skin. Following Jesus is more about a life we are called to which sets us apart. A life that is first and foremost identified with self-sacrificial love. A love that sacrifices for others sets us apart. The fruits of the Spirit set us apart: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are the higher callings of set apartness, these are where we should focus, not petty superficial things like tattoos.

4. Tattoos are creative. 

We were created to create. You are a creative being. We have found so many ways to be creative in the 21st century. This is the image and likeness of God that is imprinted on us. We are made in God’s image and therefore we are creative beings that desire creativity, it calls from within. Using our creativity in a way that places art permanently on our skin is just another way the image of God within us can show creativity. It certainly isn’t a creative medium for everyone, but neither is knitting. For some reason specific creative ventures connect with specific people.

You could even go further in the symbolism by acknowledging that placing a forever marking (tattoo/creation) upon a forever creation (we are eternal beings), is us tapping into another desire. Our desire to be permanent. To be eternal. To strive for things that last forever, that contain everlasting meaning. I recognize this isn't the attitude of all who have faith and tattoos. But even when you go back and think about why you got that tattoo, in that particular season, it can become obvious that you were feeling the need to be creative and do it in a permanent way.  God could've scratched creation after The Fall in Genesis 3 and started over again, but instead God continued to work with creation. We were made for eternity, so we can see where the desire for eternal artwork can come from; the image of God within us.

5. Tattoos can be healing.

I remember watching Miami Ink back in the day.  It's not really that interesting to watch someone get a tattoo. It might be interesting the first time, or if you are a tattoo artist, but what made Miami Ink successful was the stories. You often heard from people who had went through a painful season and were getting a tattoo to memorialize that season. I can certainly relate to this, as one of my tattoos came in a season of healing and contains far more meaning than you might think when you noticed it on my skin. Sometimes these permanent creations can actually remind us of how God was at work in a season of pain, providing healing in that moment and hope as we persevered onward.

6. Tattoos can be meaningful. 

“But what if your marriage doesn’t work out?” This is the question a Junior High student asked me when they saw I had my wedding ring tattooed on my finger. In this students world view, tattoos were permanent, but marriage not so much. I gently told the student, “I kind of plan on it working out.” So far so good! My wedding ring is meaningful to me. All of my tattoos are meaningful. I have friends who have really goofy and weird tattoos, but even those carry stories or reminders that they find meaningful. When looking at someones tattoo we might not like the art, or the execution of the art, but we often don’t know the story behind the art. We don’t see the connection to the artwork when we just walk past someone on the street. Most people I meet with tattoos find their artwork contains meaning, even if it was done at the beach with friends on Spring Break.

At the very most this is a gray area issue, at the least it is an issue we have complete freedom on. Either way, it is not a black and white issue. So placing a stigma on people who have tattoos is not helpful or biblical, and it certainly doesn't elevate our call to unity. So if you are one of those people who say things like, “You know God hates tattoos right?!” Maybe it is time to reconsider that statement and the understanding behind it. And if you are one of those people who have been hurt by someone who said, “You know God hates tattoos right?!” I apologize. I am sorry that people judged you in that way. But please know that God loves you, tattoos and all!