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The Church after Innovation

Questioning Our Obsession with Work, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship

series: Ministry in a Secular Age

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Outreach 2023 Resource of the Year (Church)

Named One of Fifteen Important Theology Books of 2022, Englewood Review of Books

Churches and their leaders have innovation fever. Innovation seems exciting--a way to enliven tired institutions, embrace creativity, and be proactive--and is a superstar of the business world. But this focus on innovation may be caused by an obsession with contemporary relevance, creativity, and entrepreneurship that inflates the self, lacks theological depth, and promises burnout.

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 is the fifth book in Root's Ministry in a Secular Age series.

1. Only the Creative Survive: How Mission Became Married to
2. We're All Sandwich Artists Now: Work and Backwash, Reversing a Historical Flow
3. Hungry, Hungry Markets: Workers in Contradiction, Children in
4. Let's Get Extra: Exploring the Secular Contradiction of Capitalism
5. Leave It to Management: Managing for Permanent Innovation
6. The Viennese Worm That Exposes the True Self: When Work Becomes about Flexible Projects
7. Justification by Creative Works Alone: When Creativity Becomes King, the Self Becomes a Star
8. Why You're Not That Special but Feel the Need to Be: Singularity and the Self
9. Standing Naked against Money
10. The Three Amigos of the Mystical Path: How the Self Is Freed from Singularity
11. Aesthetic Epiphanies, Mad Poets, and a Humble Example of What This All Looks Like


"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

The Author

  1. Andrew Root
    Caroline Yang

    Andrew Root

    Andrew Root (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of more than twenty books, including Faith Formation in a Secular Age, The...

    Continue reading about Andrew Root


Outreach 2023 Resource of the Year (Church)
Named One of Fifteen Important Theology Books of 2022, Englewood Review of Books

"A fresh and thorough look at the difference between real, enduring kingdom fruit and worldly success. Root invites readers to question the role innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship have in relationship to things like authenticity and true, transparent community. He exposes the propensity for an innovation culture in our church settings to produce idolatry and the never-ending demand to justify our worth as church leaders."

R. York Moore,