Larry Osborne
Zondervan, 2013, 176 pp., $15.58

Reading Larry Osborne’s Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret, I couldn’t help but think of a John Maxwell’s Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones. Osborne’s book is much in the same vein, and his reality checks begin early and arrive often as he reminds the reader time and again that most innovations fail. Yet this is a book about innovators—those people who see new paradigms, who are willing to take risks, who are willing to think outside the box.

Osborne, who pastors a large southern California congregation, certainly knows a bit about innovation. He not only details some of the successful innovations of the past 20 years, but also reminds us most innovations within this same time period were failures. Focus, mission, dedication—including timing—all play a key role in bringing an innovation forward. This is especially true in the church, where focus and mission so easily can get distracted by other concerns, which although valid and helpful, don’t provide for success. Osborne has many insights as to why even our best intentions can get in the way.

Pastors reading this book will value it as a leadership title. Although Osborne writes from the perspective of a large congregation already endowed with innovation and success, he reminds the reader this was not always the case. Innovators always must adapt.

I also love Osborne’s final play in this book, where he invests some of his best advice around the importance of vision. He not only takes on the tough questions about structures and policies inside the congregation, but gives sage advice on the importance of asking the right questions with regard to focus and persistence toward the goal.

As it turns out, the dirty little secret isn’t so secret after all. Any organization needs innovation in order to thrive (if not survive), and the same might be true for pastors. Clergy need to be innovative to stay alive in ministry for the long haul. Change doesn’t come easy, but it’s much more enticing and energizing than standing still.

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