Session 5c: Nurturing a Holy Imagination by Keith Doornbos

I want to end by trying to build a distinction for a minute, between holy imagination and sort of general whiteboard futuring as a whole. So what’s the difference between holy imagination and mere daydreaming, right? And I think that there’s an important distinction and here’s what I think is true about it. It’s differentiated by where it begins, how it’s nurtured and where it lands, where it begins, how it’s nurtured, how it lands, where it begins. I think that holy imagination doesn’t begin with a good think it begins with a good listen. And the prophetic formula has to be dominant in the holy imagination, which is the word of the Lord came to. The holy imagination and scriptures was never a moment when somebody went away and just had a good think about something.

It was that they were listening and they heard the word of the Lord come to them. And so the focus of holy imagination is about four directional listening. And if you’ve been around church renewal live, this is a conversation that we’re always having, which has four directional listening. First of all, listening from above and that’s exactly what Brian brought to us just a minute ago.

Listening from above is listening to what God has to say in his word about his will in his way, and wrestling with it, internalizing it, understanding it, essential to the beginning of holy imagination. Second is to listen among, to listen to God’s people about their gifts and their passions, believing that God indwells his people and so we have to listen to those people as a community. And then we have to listen from the outside, we have to listen to the community and the culture and understanding them and that right now, particularly that is a listening that needs to happen. So we can understand the changing and values culture understandings of the world that we’re living in. And then we have to listen from within what is the holy spirit uniquely calling us to do? Where are the holy spirit nudges? Where are the holy spirit encouragements?

Four directional listening is essential to whole holy imagination. And holy imagination demands discernment because as you listen in those various directions, you’ll fall… Sometimes find that they don’t always immediately come into agreement with each other. And so what you need to do is you have to have the courage to dwell at the intersection, the nexus of those four directional listening and not to leave that too quickly to spend time really listening from above, among, outside, and within and having the time and having the commitment to be a people intended on knowing the Lord’s will. So where it begins? It begins with four directional listening. It begins with the word of the Lord came to it begins with a good listen, not a good think.

And then secondly, I think it’s distinguished by how it’s nurtured, it’s nurtured through two commitments, it’s nurtured through the commitment of selflessness and the commitment to courage. Self and selflessness is getting ourselves out of the equation, exiting our attitudes, our dreams, our opinions, our biases, our preconceived notions, our safety, our self interest, our sense of what is possible and what is not exiting ourselves out of the formula, right? And being entirely open to whatever God reveals or wherever he calls, whatever he reveals and wherever he calls and we will often be surprised at the fresh expressions that come to us so we can exit ourselves out of the equation. So getting ourselves out of the equation and commitment, one is selflessness and the second one is a commitment to courage because holy imagination demands courage because it will demand change.

As we’ve often said in the CCR. And you’ve probably heard at other work where other places has that we’re perfectly structured to get the results we’re already getting. And so, unless we’re already perfectly happy with the results that we’re getting, something will have to change and God wants change because he is not perfectly happy where the world as it is. And so change is essential, but change is painful as Jill highlighted earlier. So we have to be willing to have the courage to change and it’s something, this courage to change, this courage to embrace is something that Moses and Jeremiah struggled with, who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and Jeremiah, I’m only a child, but something that beautifully Isaiah and Mary exhibited right? Here, I am send me, whom shall I send? Ooh, send me, right? It’s Isaiah say. And marriage is says, I’m the Lord’s servant. I’m just the Lord servant. So how do you have the courage? You have to have that courage as, as again, Jill highlighted.

So holy imagination is marked by listening well by the commitments of selflessness and courage and mark, by what it produces. Holy imagination finally produces the change that we’ve talked about. It’s marked by doing as well as it’s been, as Brian has said. But I think it’s also doing John said in first, John [inaudible], let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth, right? It’s got a result. I think that many times churches and church leaders are guilty of the deception of the conceptual experience. They think because they thought something, something has happened and that’s not true, just because we think something doesn’t mean that something has actually changed.

Holy imagination leads to transformed communities, change transformed lives. So it’s marked by that capacity for change and to live that change. And the beauty of the holy imagination is that has a capacity to break us free from the whirlwind. The four disciplines of execution books suggest that every organization is deals with a whirlwind. This tornado that sucks up every imaginable hour and dollar, right? And it’s so hard for institutions to make any advancement because they’re always sucked into the whirlwind. Everything that they’ve got, they’ve not nothing left, but holy imagination has a power to break us free from the whirlwind, to be able to imagine new possibilities and to live into those new possibilities. So we have that capacity and that’s the nature of holy imagination. It on sticks, gods stuck, people, it on sticks, God stuck people. And what I’ve noticed about churches that are really thriving in this kind of mid to late COVID era, we hope we trust is that they’re on stock churches.

They’re filled with imaginations. They almost seem like boy Scouts with a new Jack knife. They just can’t wait to get out there and carve something, right? Here we’ve got a new world. Let’s do something with it. We have new possibilities. Let’s make something of it, right? Now when holy imagination is working well, lives and communities are truly being changed. And the gospel is advanced. There’s so much power and so much beauty in holy imagination. I saw that last night, we saw that last night, Elaine and I were working with a church that was thinking about closing and it was just a hot mess. I just have to tell you, and all of it seemed like we were making no progress in our conversations with them until we suggested one thing. We suggested the pastor that he take a small break and that during that time he would just dream.

He would dream of a future. He would dream of what God has in mind for that church, that he would create a short white paper that he could share with others. And we watched, and this countenance that was just so heavy was lifted and joy returned because not that he had yet even imagined what God had in mind, but he was just being given permission to imagine that was it just permission to imagine, and life was lifted. Do we grant ourselves permission to [inaudible] imagine? Do we have a holy imagination? That is such a part of us that we can say that we have a vision of a coming God ordained Shalom future that is giving us passion even in this rapidly changing world, so that’s holy imagination. We’re going to talk about that later.

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