A way of thinking and being that holds the past and future in tension, not in opposition, is crucial to the growth and vitality of Christian institutions.

Traditioned innovation is a biblical way of leading that integrates the transformative work of Christ into our ongoing identity as the people of God rooted in biblical Israel’s calling.

This page explores the theology of traditioned innovation and offers examples of what this idea looks like in practice. We recommend that you explore the essays in order before turning to the examples and additional materials.

Exploring the idea

Preserving tradition and leading change »

Theologian L. Gregory Jones, dean of Duke Divinity School, writes that Christian leaders need not choose between tradition and innovation. A way of thinking that holds the two in tension is crucial to the ongoing vitality and growth of our institutions.

Traditioned innovation: A biblical way of thinking »

By being both innovative and faithful to tradition, we follow the pattern of the creating and redeeming God of Scripture, writes New Testament scholar C. Kavin Rowe. This is the first essay in a five-part series.

The New Testament as an innovation of the Old »

In the second essay in a series, Rowe writes that understanding the New Testament requires grounding in the tradition of the Old Testament. The book of Leviticus and the Sermon on the Mount illustrate that the New is the fulfillment of the Old.

King Jesus »

Jesus’ messianic role is bound to his identity as the son of King David. And yet, Rowe writes, Jesus turns out to be a radically new kind of king.

Navigating the differences in the Gospels »

Contrary to the message in some top-selling books, Rowe writes that the differences in the Gospels are not a problem. Instead, they are a rich reflection of the way in which the Bible mediates God’s redeeming presence to the world and describe the character of God’s grace as at once preserving and renewing.

Pentecost as traditioned innovation »

Rowe writes that the coming of the Holy Spirit is both a fulfillment of that which is old and a radical new beginning.

Seeing the Idea in Practice

Baptist University of the Américas

Living into a new vision

Baptist University of the Américas has undergone painful changes to transform itself from a dying Bible institute to a high-quality, affordable institution of higher education for Latino Christian leaders in Texas. Read more »

Walk into the Bible

A church tells its oldest stories in a new way

Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas, set out to renovate its Children’s Center to encourage children to learn Scripture. The children’s minister and a mural painter worked together on a dream for children to walk into the Bible. Read more »

Trinity Grace Church

An evangelical church plant that honors the historic traditions of the church

Unlike fellow nondenominational church plants that work from church-growth strategies, marketing schemes or a seeker-sensitive approach, Trinity Grace Church (TGC) has returned to a traditional parish model grounded in the liturgical practices of the historic church.
Read more »


An interview with Roger Martin on "opposable thinking"

The dean of the Rotman School of Management talks about why you don’t always need to choose between opposing options, but can find another choice. Read more »

Recommended resources to learn more

Love Made Me an Inventor

During Burundi’s civil war in the early 1990s, Maggy Barankitse witnessed horrific acts of genocide -- in one night she saw 72 people slaughtered. Out of this experience she created Maison Shalom, a place for Burundi’s orphans to survive and thrive.
Learn more about this recommendation »



How to Change the World

David Bornstein tells the story of local leaders who found innovative ways to serve their communities.
Learn more about this recommendation »
Purchase this book »



Change or Die

Alan Deutschman documents the practices needed for innovation – relate, repeat and reframe.
Learn more about this recommendation »
Purchase this book »


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Pastoral study grants

The Louisville Institute Pastoral Study Project Grant awards grants of up to $20,000 to support individual or collaborative study projects on Christian life, religious practices and institutions, and ideas for the church, communities or the world. Clergy, lay leaders and staff working in diverse Christian contexts in the United States or Canada are eligible to apply. Deadline is August 1.

Learn more