Isn’t it amazing how God has gifted us with imagination?
It’s probably one of the many things that singles us out from other animal species. I like to think of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit having a brainstorming session before the creation of the world, imagining what they might create. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation!
And imagination is probably one of the most misunderstood and underused gifts that we all have. Essentially it precedes innovation. It has to.
So how do we use our imagination in the service of God’s Kingdom?
It’s not just artistic creatives that have the corner on imagination. It’s designed to be something we all use. It is probably best activated in some kind of space, both physical and diary, where we are undistracted and have time and space to tune into God speaking to us, or painting for us, something in our mind that didn’t previously exist.
Sometimes imagination comes from reading, watching, talking, listening, or walking. It can come alive when external stimuli, internal spiritual impulses and personal space combine to create conditions where new ideas are formed and fermented. It may just need permission to be aroused and brought into play in our leadership and lives.
I love the way that Rachel, from St Barnabas Cambridge, and Guy, from Birmingham Diocese, have employed their imagination in putting together their discipleship resources.
I admire the way that Bec, from Hope Whitby, has constantly refused to fit their growing church into an existing mould, but used her imagination to create new forms of church, as the need has arisen.
Imagination has led to Innovation (or invention). And this is how it should be. If we want to see the kingdom come, then we need to constantly be imagining what the new wineskin should be. Innovations of the 1970s, 80s and 90s need to give way to the imagination of the 2020s. As the prophet Isaiah famously said, ‘Behold I am doing a new thing’.
Our imagination has no limit, it is free to create something out of nothing. We will never reach the end of possibilities if we give God the time and space to help us co-create with him. He says in Eph 3:20 that He is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,’ As I said – no limits!
Innovation of course requires Iteration – to check out new ideas and find the ones that will work, bear fruit, and be sustainable. Permission to fail is required! We need each other in this process. Both to stimulate innovations of the future shape of church, and also to support each other through the pain of trying new things.
I pray that you would discover the power of God working through your imagination, the joy of innovation, and the emerging shape of kingdom and church that will follow.