Disruption is a buzz phrase you’ll hear in almost any industry. There’s just no escaping it. Interestingly, though, in a culture that seems to be continually resisting Jesus, disruption is quite aligned with his teaching and really is a significant attribute of refining life, on purpose.
You see, Jesus was the most disruptive individual in all of history. Further, he told and showed us that we must be in a state of continually disrupting of ourselves. As a matter of example, let’s look at this often cited passage from Matthew…
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. – Matthew 16:24 NLT
This passage gives me new insight every time I consider it. And now, in the context of disruption, that holds true. Here, let’s focus on the phrase “give up your own way” which is also often translated as “deny thyself.” Also of note here is the command to “follow me.“
Why Must We Deny Ourselves?
On the surface, this scripture is pretty simple: give up your ways and take up the ways of Jesus. But there is a ton more to it than that. And I suggest this may be a commandment to be personally disruptive to allow for personal renewal.
In his commentary, John Gill says about denying one’s self:
let him deny sinful self, ungodliness, and worldly lusts; and part with them, and his former sinful companions, which were as a part of himself: let him deny righteous self, and renounce all his own works of righteousness, in the business of justification and salvation; let him deny himself the pleasures and profits of this world, when in competition with Christ; let him drop and banish all his notions and expectations of an earthly kingdom, and worldly grandeur, and think of nothing but reproach, persecution, and death, for the sake of his Lord and Master:
So, we must give up our wants, our friends, our pride, and every trophy that may be gained in this world. Pretty much, have no greater desire than to follow Jesus. And, as the rest of the passage suggests, we will have our own crosses to carry in servanthood and discipleship. Talk about disrupting the status quo.
Disruption of the Market
With “disruption” being so prominent in business and industry, we must ask what it means to be disruptive. As many will tell you, the competitor of disruption is the legacy (systems, people, and processes) that got us to where we are today. And people resist doing anything that’s any way other than “the way we’ve always done it.”
But “how we have always done it” is not progress; it’s stagnation and status quo. Jesus commands us to be all but status quo.
First, though, let’s look at what disruption in the marketplace looks like.
Google, for starters, disrupted the search engine world (and many industries since). Amazon brought disruption to the retail book market. Then, it disrupted the entire retail and shipping worlds. Apple disrupted the music market. Netflix disrupted the movie rental and then the television production market. Tesla disrupted the auto and space navigation market. Uber disrupted the taxi market – and has plans to disrupt many more!
In all these cases, the status quo was rejected. Consider now, how life has changed since disruption. Imagine if you still searched by asking Jeeves or listened to music on CDs.
Disruption of Markets is Not a New Thing
You may buy into the buzz phrase mania and consider it to be a cutting edge strategy. In a way, it is. And you might think it was born out of some sort of tech boom. Though it attained notoriety because of technology, you’d be wrong to think disruption as a strategy is new.
Wal-Mart disrupted retail and local retail stores have all but vanished. The automobile – chiefly pioneered by Henry Ford – disrupted the horse and buggy market. McDonald’s disrupted the restaurant market by making low-cost quick food available to diners who didn’t want long waits for food. Visa transformed the way we buy stuff. The rail industry of the 1800s disrupted the steamship industry (which, ironically, was used to run itself out of business).
And, as Paul tells us, we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Disruption, it seems, is a key strategy of discipleship.
Disruption of Your Self
Madonna has famously had many “images” throughout her storied career. Pro wrestlers often portray multiple “personalities” throughout their careers. These examples, though, are more about image and popularity than true reinvention of self. They are facades. Disruptive, yes. But they don’t compel true or lasting change.
Conversely, I attended a conference where one of the keynote speakers ended his conversation by sharing about a time he’d reached a point where he didn’t want to be just “riding out” the rest of his career. He chose to intentionally disrupt himself.
He has, since then, successfully pivoted to a career change that has leveraged him into a position of expertise and topic authority. Then he shared that he didn’t want this change to relate solely to his work. He changed his personal habits to garner better health and now has essentially reinvented himself all over again.
Disruption of Comfort Zones
This speaker is certainly not the first, nor will he be the last, to intentionally reinvent himself. In fact, it’s what I seek to do on a daily basis. I’ll go a step further and suggest that, if you are truly a follower of Jesus and willing to be discipled by Jesus, you will be among the many.
There is no formula or “X simple steps.” However, I do believe reinvention best occurs when you get outside your comfort zones. Do just be “okay” with something going beyond the status quo; deliberately seek to go there (though be careful not to change simply for the sake of change).
It’s very tempting to be in seasons of life where you are content to just “ride it out.” Most often, that comes in later years. But, that might happen at any point, really. The key is to not settle for what the best there is today, because tomorrow, that will be the best there was. And there will be something else that’s way better than that.
Finally, as I type this post, I’ll share candidly that I currently find myself at a point in my own career and life where I am adventuring through something quite different than I’ve ever known.
Is it uncomfortable, scary, and stressful? You better believe it!
Will I fail? Possibly.
But I have an infinitely greater chance of success by trying than I ever would have had I not tried at all.