Is it just me, or do you get a sense that folks in Renewal circles still view imagination and creativity with suspicion, especially when it comes to preaching? How is it that sermons based on God’s powerful word can come off so dry and dull? I would submit that the problem is not with God’s word, it’s with the messenger of the word. Have you ever gone to a great steakhouse and had them mess the steak up? It could be Kobe Beef right from Japan, but if you boil it in water and add no spices, you just ruined the steak. The steak was fine, but the preparation ruined it. I think this happens all the time with preachers and their sermons.
Perhaps our problem with preparation is rooted in a sincere desire for God to have His way in our sermons, and for our humanity to not get in the way of the power of His word. You have probably heard this prayer prayed by many a sincere preacher before he or she started to preach: “Lord, all of you, and none of me – let my words be your word.” Sorry, God can’t answer that one. If He really intended it to be “all of Him” and “none of me,” He would have sent an angel or a holy tape recorder to preach. Instead, he sent you and me – imperfect as we are – to mingle our humanity with his word. To some, that may sound like a bad idea, because His word is so pure and holy. To me, it sounds a lot like incarnation. God has always intended to mix his word with our humanity to clothe His word with flesh so people could experience Him – hear, see, behold, and handle (1 John 1:1,2). That is what gives the word texture and depth when it is preached – words that are three dimensional in the rather flat world we live in. It’s the difference between a boiled steak and a perfectly spiced charbroiled masterpiece that melts in your mouth. Which one appeals to you?
The church has a very rich tradition of creativity in its buildings, windows, and art. The very windows of early churches were alive with stained glass artwork depicting the story of the gospels in picture form for those who could not read. To marry creativity, imagination, and the preaching of God’s word is to act a lot more like God, not less like Him. This is where “Uncle Al” can teach us a thing or two.
I would have been content with just one kind of flower, yet botanists estimate there are more than 10,000 species, not to name all the varieties, shapes, and colors. I could do with very few spiders, yet scientists estimate there are at least 37,000 different kinds. If that is not creative, I don’t know what is. When God creates, He is absolutely extravagant. God creates with His word. Preacher, when you speak, are your words extravagant and dripping with creativity and imagination? Have you married reason with creativity and imagination? Should the people who listen to you expect anything less from someone hoping to speak for God?