I half-anticipated your stormy response to my first letter. You are upset by the accusation that Pentecostals are anti-intellectual and at the same time you know it to be true. Pentecostals become scholars (and sometimes the other way around) but continue their work only with a sense of uneasiness amidst the ivory tower of the educational and academic system so dominated by the ideals of Western pedagogy that they reflect little (if anything) of a Pentecostal ethos. If I continue, it may sound like a defense of Pentecostalism; but I must try to be honest with you, with myself, and also take an authentic look at Pentecostals. I promised you more thoughts on the nature of Pentecostal anti-intellectualism. I hope I can answer some of your questions and stir up some new ones. Read the rest of this entry »
Posts Tagged ‘Imagination’
Albert Einstein once said: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” He was one of the greatest intellectuals of the twentieth century, but acknowledged that “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” Preachers need to take a lesson from Dr. Einstein. All that brain power, yet he was fascinated like a little child with the world around him and its mystery. Uncle Albert’s secret to success? He learned to marry reason with creativity and imagination to think outside the box about the world around him. Wouldn’t it be nice if the same could always be said about the church and its preachers?
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?
By looking at my bio picture, you can tell right away that the bicep to the left doesn’t belong to me! It probably belongs to one of the muscle heads I see at the gym each week. I seem to work out just as hard as them, but don’t get the results they get. Why? Half of them are “juiced.” They are a part of the crowd who are sacrificing their body on the altar of vanity by getting some help from anabolic steroids, known to cause havoc with otherwise healthy bodies. I’ll take the smaller biceps, thank you.
What about sermons? My passion is practical theology – the application of sound theology to everyday life and ministry to produce effective ministry with a solid foundation. Our theology determines not only what is in our sermons, but how our sermons are presented. Sometimes the presentation has a lot more to do with how the sermon is received than the actual content itself. That statement may violate a few sacred cows among Renewal folks (those with a Charismatic, Pentecostal, Third Wave, or Holiness background), but I am fine with that. I’ve been doing this for thirty years and have seen what works and what doesn’t. We have been taught that “the anointing” is what matters – is the Holy Spirit blessing our sermon or not? We have also been taught that the Word of God alone will make the difference. That theology sounds great, but what about the people in the pews who are falling asleep and looking at their watches with their minds on March Madness? Could there be something more to this thing we call preaching, that goes beyond the anointing and the power inherent in God’s Word itself? I think so. What might that be – what can I couple with an anointed message and the power of God’s word to capture the minds that wonder to wake the sleeping giant in my pews? The answer – sermon juice!
Creativity and imagination are sermon juice. When coupled with God’s anointing and the power of the Word of God, creativity and imagination capture and maintain attention while stirring the heart of our listeners. Jesus was famous for drawing large crowds with His sermons. He was anointed. He used God’s Word. The difference between Him and many preachers today is that He also was tremendously creative. He was constantly using nature and His surroundings – “God’s Theater” as John Calvin called it, to paint living pictures with His words. He captured life and its daily experiences to drive home deeply theological points in a simple way that even children could understand. As John Maxwell says, He kept the “cookie jar on the lower shelf” so everyone could reach them and understand how what He was saying directly applied to their lives at that moment in time. As Mark Batterson says, “irrelevance is irreverence.” If they can’t understand it, they can’t apply it. If they can’t relate to it, they can’t internalize it. The preacher’s job is to use creativity to cloth his or her words with “flesh,” partnering with God to preach a sermon. We are often uncomfortable with that – many pray at the beginning of their message, “Lord, let this be all of you and none of me.” Sorry, God won’t answer that one. His part is the anointing and the power of the Word. Our part is to add flesh to the words we preach with fresh creativity and imagination – often the difference between success and failure. Pray for His blessing and anointing. Trust in the power of His authoritative word. But preacher, for greater effectiveness in preaching, tap into your God-given creativity and imagination – get juiced!