I had a really engaging talk with my friend Joe the other day, and one of the things he mentioned was how important imagination was in the kingdom. In the world that is emerging, including the world of church leadership, I think imagination and creativity are more important than knowledge and skill. In fact, I think new "knowledge" leaders need is imagination, the new "skill" is creativity. It isn’t just knowing about something anymore, it’s about being able to think beyond what is, and imagine what could be. It isn’t about simply being skilled at a task anymore, it’s about being skilled at adapting to new challenges: being skilled at knowing what new skills I need to learn.
Imagination is the ability to envision something that isn’t there (yet). Because of the rapid of culture change, we need leaders who can imagine new ways of being and doing "church" that resonate in postmodern culture, and then in whatever comes after that. Their ideas will seem "wacky" to people that are used to the status quo, but it’s those kind of wacky ideas that we need to get us thinking in the right direction.
Whenever you catch yourself assuming that you need X or Y to "have church" or "do ministry" (a building, money, paid staff, a sermon, a worship band, a sound system), you’re killing your ability to imagine and create anything new. Any time you catch yourself saying, "But I just can’t imagine doing it any other way," you’re one step away from being irrelevant.
Stay imaginative, stay creative. Ask absurd questions, be open to wacky ideas, don’t censor crazy ideas just because they’re crazy. Follow the implications in your imagination and just see if you can’t dream up a better world. Because if you can’t imagine it, you can’t create it.
joshua longbrake says
to me, my most important step in the creative process is this: remove the fear of failure. it appears that so many church leaders are so afraid of failing or looking foolish because everything isn’t perfect. i thrive in imperfection. flaws show vulnerability, and that speaks volumes to me.
embrace the possibility of failure.
Nathan Kipfer says
I say yes, to a certain degree. I completely agree we can’t just “learn” how to do church. We definetly need more creativity and new-ness and “wacky” ideas. However, we cannot move away from the knowledge (at least theologically). I think knowledge could be the foundation. Our challenge is to stay rooted in what’s important through what we “know,” but be daring and creative enough to get some crazy looking architecture on top of the foundation.
Benjamin Sternke says
joshua, I agree completely. As long as we’re afraid of failing, we’ll never step out and risk, which is what we need to do to move forward.
Nathan, you’re right that we can’t simply imagine something out of thin air and say its biblical, but I do think there is a place for honest questioning of theological ideas, unless we’re prepared to say that they got it 100% right during the Reformation and we don’t have to think about those things anymore. I’ve got a post coming Monday that deals with issues like these – how being faithful to the gospel actually requires us to make the gospel relevant. Behind that lies the question of what we think the gospel is – a theological question we ought to be thinking long and hard about.
Nathan Kipfer says
Right. I completely agree that we don’t just automatically accept what we’re taught, theologically or otherwise (I think that happens all too often). However, I still think it’s important to have the foundation of knowledge to better direct our creativity. Also, the more understanding we have the more effectively we can question, critique, and consider ideas, whether it be theological “tradition,” or new ideas that come up. I suppose my basic conclusion would be we need both. Perhaps it isn’t a matter of which is more important, but perhaps where we are lacking more. I mean most “ministry people” have had some sort of theological training, which is important. Considering we seem to have a sufficient amount of knowledge, we need to build on that with the imagination and creativity. Not just let the knowledge sit there, but really do something with it. So, I say, creativity and imagination are not more important than skill and knowledge, but there is just a much greater need and demand for creativity and imagination. I suppose though to your credit if demand is high and supply is low then it is more valuable. OK, I just talked myself into agreeing with you! All right I’ll buy it. 🙂