Maybe We Need To Recover Our Imagination

*photo above: Scott Erickson painting during his one-man show “We Are Not Troubled Guests” at NWLife’s Together Night


Sometimes I wonder, have we lost our imagination?

Stewart Henderson, in his poem I Believe says,

‪Propagandists are

excellent mimics

But don’t expect them to say anything original.

I believe in doubt

I believe doubt is a process of saying

“Excuse me, I have a question.”

Propagandists hate questions

and in so doing

detest art.

I believe in art.

We are so easily tempted to mimic, copy, follow, and accept status quo as reasonable and good enough.

In the church it happens like this: we look to another church in some other part of the state or country that is considered successful because of one or more of the “B’s” – buildings, budgets, and butts-in-seats.

We esteem these other churches as having or being something that we also should have or be. We podcast them. We fly over to them and scribble notes about everything we see and hear. We meet with their leaders to get their secret recipes. And then we bring it home to our state, city, neighborhood.

This whole thing reeks of a lack of imagination to me.

What ever happened to God speaking to us, giving us dreams and visions and creative ideas for our neighborhoods, cities, states?

Where have all the artists gone? Where are the innovators? Where are the wonderers?

(Note: innovation is not going somewhere else and importing all their best ideas. That’s more like making ourselves a golden calf because we haven’t heard from God for a few days)

I do believe in learning from others, being teachable, being inspired by the good work someone else is doing. But I still want to know: where are the artists? Where are the innovators? What happened to our imagination?

The world doesn’t need another Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, TD Jakes, Beth Moore… you can fill in the blank with your favorite Christian personality.

Think about it. God didn’t create any of us to be “so-and-so part 2.” God is bigger than that. His creativity is far richer and more expansive than that.  I remember reading a little book by John Mason in the ’90′s called: “You Were Born an Original. Don’t Die a Copy.” That’s some good advice right there.

More and more, I question the practice of multi-site churches streaming video to all their various campuses from the main church, from the main guy – a truly gifted communicator. What unsettles me about this practice is the underlying message it sends: “We don’t believe there’s anyone else uniquely gifted of God to speak to people in this neighborhood – so we’ll copy the audio and video signals of the anointed one, and give ‘em that.

It seems to lack imagination. And maybe for things like sandwiches or cappuccinos or chicken nuggets, replicating them all over God’s green earth is reasonable and good enough. But we’re not talking about fast food chains, we’re talking about the Kingdom of God.

For God’s sake, let’s exercise our imagination muscle!

I love what Erika Morrison says: “Mimicking the methods and movements of other people is one big smasher of your rare intellect and animation… an affront to the on-purpose of your design.”

As long as we are mimicking, new songs will not be written.

Copying will never provide us with new solutions, answers, innovations.

Where are the artists?

Where are the innovators?

Where has our imagination gone?

In over 25+ years of church leadership, I have done plenty of emulating. More recently, this has lost its appeal to me. I honestly can’t get myself to listen to a Christian podcast or listen to Christian radio or read the latest popular Christian book (and I most definitely cannot get myself to go to a Christian movie).

It all seems so… recycled.

I believe there is a better and more beautiful way. I don’t want to be impressed with a golden calf, a copy of a copy of a copy.

I want to exercise the muscle, weak as it may be, because I believe it will grow. And with the growth of imagination, ideas will come, songs will be written, solutions will be discovered, new words will be written, and dreams will be realized.

A few words from Brian Zahn’s poem The Advent of Imagination:

What’s a bit of ridicule if it comes with the liberation of imagination?

I for one am ready to be called an impractical, dreamy bleeding heart (or worse)

If it means we stop justifying the sacrifice of Abel on the altar of pragmatism…

(Or any other Ism.)

And so I ask you—

Test your imagination

Does the status quo (the existing state of affairs)

Have to remain an idol pledged allegiance to?

Has the way we’ve run the world since the (bloodstained) dawn of civilization

Worked out so very well we must remain wedded to it till death do us part?


I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

2 Comments to Maybe We Need To Recover Our Imagination

  1. I think some of the most creative songs are those where the artist sings another artist’s song. And they sing it not in the same way as the original artist, but they put their own unique stamp on it. So not necessarily something from nothing, but more of a remixed version that takes the original creator’s vision and add’s something unique to it. I think that has its place in churches and work in the neighborhood as well.

    • This is a great point Todd. I’m with you… some of my favorite music is covers (like the haunting version of NIN’s Hurt sung by Johnny Cash). For the church, the question really is one of discernment – what is best for these people, for this neighborhood, for our community? The answer doesn’t always have to be something new, never done before… it really often is something borrowed. Discernment and imagination – I want both!

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