Imagination, Tradition and the Divine Gift of Abundance

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Churches and denominations should be known as places of great organizational imagination, creativity, and experimentation. Andy Crouch, in his book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, makes this statement: “Human creativity, then, images God’s creativity when it emerges from a lively, loving community of persons and, perhaps more important, when it participates in unlocking the full potential of what has gone before and creating possibilities for what will come later.” New imaginations and creative ideas emerge from a group of lively, loving, God-fearing communities who don’t dismiss the past but are constantly thriving to continue the process of creativity for a better future. They imagine and create because God is imaginative and creative.

Ideas are not scarce, they are abundant. Embracing a worldview of abundance propels our organizational creativity.

In the last post I wrote I addressed how mission calls us into the abundance of the divine and confronts a worldview of scarcity. We are invited into a relationship of abundance - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - through the extravagant generosity in the Father's gift of the Son and the pouring out of the Spirit. As the church, we are sent on mission confronting the worldview of scarcity and offering an alternative way, a new kingdom based on abundance. In this kingdom we are free from the need to seek power and control as all our fear and anxiety are consumed by the abundant love of Father, Son and Spirit. Experiencing the abundance of the divine propels us with great freedom to be creative in loving our neighbor and pursuing shalom.  

As a denomination, and church, the divine gift of abundance gives us the courage to engage in imagining new ways of behaving, organizing, and investing in our stated mission of “transforming lives and communities.” We will not be seduced into old habits of scarcity thinking which is an underlying fear behind all the clichés about how the Church resists change.  There are daydream moments when we sense there is another way to live, behave, and organize but we don’t let the dream take shape for fear of where it might lead. Rather, we resort to the limitations of the known. The strategic plan. The desire to squeeze out more potential or motivation to work harder with more efficiency. All retreads of a scarcity mentality that says if things are going to get better, it’s up to us – our leadership, ingenuity, ability and resources.  Oh, we might use new language of change, models, metrics or programs but the sentiments expressed often keep the status quo. I wonder if they are just new dressing to the same cliché associated with the old and dying churches, “We’ve never done it that way before.” It’s the fear of scarcity rearing its ugly head.

Scarcity is not part of God. Mission as entering into divine abundance embraces endless new and creative ways to imagine and organize the people of God to give faithful representation of the gospel.  

A simple dismissal of tradition or the way things have been done is also a failure to enter into divine abundance. I have been richly blessed and shaped by our common history and practices. The traditions of this denomination are a gift and rich blessing that has flown from divine abundance. Our tradition provides definition, contour, continuity, and confidence in the life of our Christian community.  The various “deposits” of tradition give depth, experience and wisdom to the questions of church, gospel and mission that we will wrestle with today as well as tomorrow. What is cautioned against is the trap of scarcity thinking which limits tradition as a fixed point, holding the people of God captive to a particular time, place, and set of static practices. Rather, tradition reflects abundance as a dynamic interaction between the people of God-past, present and future-who lived as God’s people in a variety of times, places, and contexts.  We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, learning from their experience and observing how the Spirit guided them in God’s redemptive drama.  

We continue to be open to God’s people everywhere bringing new insights, structures, processes, and practices as a result of the particular circumstances and context we find ourselves engaging.

Creative and imaginative organizations cherish a level of uncertainty as they explore new ideas. They recognize that new and creative action has a high risk of failure but engage the new with the belief that creativity is not scarce but flows from abundance. This is one of the things that is so exciting about learning from those who have engaged in mission in the world outside of my North American home. As the Spirit led those who have gone before, the Spirit will lead today and tomorrow. Now is not a time for tightening up, but for opening up; a time for leaving the limits of our known and embracing the unknown abundance of the divine. Mission as divine abundance means our present is connected to the past and our future is being shaped into something new that we could have never imagined.

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Brilliant!

Very timely and true Kevin! Perfect love casts out the fear of scarcity, and the Spirit leads us anew into abundant creativity!

Peter Stellingwerff

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