Christians Challenged to Stop Ignoring Innovators, Early Adopters

Author and speaker Erwin McManus believes that all the innovators and early adopters have been filtered out of church leadership.

In the meantime, the church has been led by late adopters and nostalgics, he pointed out on Thursday.

And though early adopters make up a small percentage of the population, McManus is convinced that churches will not be able to shape the future of any culture if they don't reach what he sees as "the top 12 percent."

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"Even if you have the majority, you do not have the defining influence of where culture is going unless you reach the top 2.2 and 12.4 [percent] of culture," he said as he addressed seminary students and pastors at The National Leadership Forum, held at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla.

"But most of the decisions we make cater toward the majority and the nostalgics and entirely ignore those who shape and create culture."

McManus, an innovator, recently made the transition from full-time pastor at the influential Mosaic church in Southern California to starting a company that would engage the world of art and culture. It was a dream he has had but never tended to, he said.

In the last couple of years, he and his wife took out millions of dollars in investment loans to forge forward with what he felt his soul was saying to do. He felt called to create community, tell a story and bring meaning and beauty to the world on a different platform.

Meaning, story, beauty and community are the four things he is convinced every organization, church and business needs to focus on if they are going to develop the healthiest and most vibrant people.

There are many unhealthy Christians out there, he lamented, along with an incredible number of unhealthy companies that are influenced by Christians.

The 51-year-old speaker said he meets a lot of people who have a relationship with Christ and yet are still searching for answers to their life

"One of the things you'll discover ... as you listen to your own soul is that you spend a great amount of your life trying to bring meaning to your own life. And, by the way, most people are not going to church so the place they're actually trying to find meaning in their life is at work," he noted. "And if their job seems meaningless, if it seems as if it's just a waste of their life, they just go in and clock in but check out, you will never get the best of people."

"How many people just get up on Monday and do the same thing they've done every single Monday – go to work and just turn on route automatic and no longer have any meaning in their life?" he laid out.

When he started his new company, which includes a filmmaking component, McManus wanted to make sure that he does things that are meaningful in every way. He was inspired by the Old Testament figure Solomon who found everything "utterly meaningless" after experiencing wealth, power and success.

"We want to help everyone find meaning in their life and help translate the story that each person actually matters in the world," he said.

He rejected the business model that former General Electric CEO Jack Welch had famously employed – finding "A" people, tolerating "B" people and getting rid of "C" people, as McManus summarized it.

McManus believes there is greatness in everyone and leaders need to help pull that out of everyone.

"The reality is that every human being is placed on this planet and one of the things that drives humans is their need for meaning and if you can make every job meaningful then you will guarantee that every job will be done to its highest level of excellence," he said.

The innovator recently employed a young designer who creates bags out of materials that are tossed, particularly military pieces from World War II.

"Steve (the designer of Temple bags) had a metaphor ... to take everything that's trash, [that] no one cares about ... and redesign them so that people can realize that their life, though it may seem worthless and ragged and no longer of any value, if they'll just allow God to reshape and repurpose their life, He can create something beautiful because we're really the temples," McManus highlighted.

Christians are called not only to bring meaning to people's lives but also to bring beauty, he emphasized.

But he has found that churches have brushed off the importance of beauty.

Early this year, Mosaic church produced a Doritos commercial that was among the three chosen by the American public to air during the 2010 Super Bowl. McManus was criticized by Christian leaders for not placing the Gospel message in the commercial.

To such criticism, he responded, "We actually believe that if we do something better than anyone else in the world, we will earn the right to be heard."

"Part of what has happened is that we have lost our conviction that beauty is actually important in carrying the Gospel to the world," he said.

In the church, McManus feels there is an "arrogant misconception" that Christians hold – that because they are people of the book or people of truth, they're healthy.

"The truth of the matter is, even if you're right in your beliefs, right in your doctrine, you may be actually wrong in your execution," he pointed out.

"We can keep trying to preach at people, demand that they listen to us rather than tell a story so compelling they can't help but hear us," he told Forum participants. "[But] if we're going to reach these innovators, early adopters, pioneers, explorers, artisans, cultural creators ... we better stop acting as if we've already earned the right to be heard and trying to cram the most beautiful story that has ever been told down people's throats."

"We need to start doing things that are astonishing and beautiful, that are compelling and reach inside of the human spirit and make people long for the God who created them," he challenged Christians.

"The wonderful thing about the opportunity that we have is that we can take the broken wreckage of our life, the worn out pieces, the stuff that we thought God could never use and through the honest, transparent expression of who we are sharing what God has done, we can tell a story that will pack them in."

The Leadership Forum continues Friday and is available to view live on the Web at

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