Friday, February 15, 2013

It's all in our imagination

This thing about imagination and vision and mission statements is still wandering around my head. I had an interesting discussion with a few colleagues the other day about it. I'd just spoken at a local church a couple of days before about the journey we are and the topic of imagination came out of that. i remembered something I think Alan Roxburg said in his book about the imagination that exists in the people and the challenge to create an environment in which that imagination can flourish.

On Sunday, when I spoke, I posed the question: "If you had a blank piece of paper on which you could describe what church might look like if we started from scratch, what would you write? Many of the answers were predictable. Not because people lack imagination, but perhaps because their only frame of reference is what they've always known. In reality, thinking new thoughts is actually rather hard for most people. We  have to begin with what we know and move from there. The challenge is in teasing out the new from within the old framework.

We've been watching The Genius of Invention on the BBC, and it's fascinating. It actually gives me great hope for the future of the church in an odd sort of way. Why? Because the genius doesn't lie in the intelligence of the inventor as much as it lies in their ability to imagine something new. People like Marconi and Baird didn't actually invent much at all, they just assembles various bits of apparatus into something new. They imagined a new way of using what others had invented. Okay, so it still counts as invention, but the point is you don't always have to start from nothing. Baird is a great example, not only of the genius of invention, but the way invention moves things forward. Without his mechanical system, television might never have been born. The fact that it wasn't the future of television didn't matter and doesn't matter. He didn't fail just because we went electronic.

When it comes to church and where we find ourselves at this moment, I'm not sure what is going to happen. In fact I think it would be more honest to say I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen. I have a dream, an imagined future. If it turns out differently, then I will not have failed, even if others think I have. Perhaps I have a greater capacity to imagine than some. Perhaps imagination is my greatest gift and others will need to pioneer what I imagine.

And yet, I can't believe that I am the only one with an imagination. Everyone has the capacity to imagine something. If everyone has a book in them, then everyone might just have a church in them too! Bring your imagination out to play, it's in there somewhere!

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