by Elliot Keane
[5 minute read]
Imagination is the place where possibility resides, where potential arises, where new horizons emerge and where adventures await the courageous. But fed with a steady diet of hypnotic distraction and the daily grind our imaginations are dulled. We stop noticing, stop wondering, stop anticipating. We stop imagining.
Imagination is vital to the human experience. Without the imagination we stop fully living.
The imagination is not just the play space of children and the child-like. The imagination is not just the realm of the creatives, designers, inventors and innovators. We use our imaginations when we read, when we hear someone tell a story and when we consider where we might travel in the coming months. We use our imaginations when we recall memories from our past and when we anticipate the future. We use our imaginations when we lead. You might not think you have an imagination, but you do. You might not think you are very imaginative, but you can be.
We use our imaginations when we describe who God is and what he is like. Some of the writers of Scripture, people like Ezekiel and John in Revelation, stretched the limits of their and our imaginations trying to describe God. The Psalmist even suggests that God is unfathomable. But this does not mean he is unfindable, unreachable, or untouchable. Of course, we most fully capture who God is in King Jesus. The captivating poem in Colossians (1:15-20) reminds us that King Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is the one who holds all things together. He is the one who has begun the great cosmic renovation project to reconcile to himself all things. He is the first of the new creation.
A story from the Gospels that has always captured my imagination is when Jesus answers the question, what is the kingdom of God like? (You can find the story in three of the Gospels: Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 13). According to Luke, Jesus says, “It is like a mustard seed, when a gardener took it and planted it in his garden, it grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
This story inspires me to imagine something more than I see. The kingdom of God is more than we expect. When Jesus sows the seeds of the kingdom it grows to become more than we anticipate, more than we can imagine. All through the story of King Jesus he invites his followers into the story of his new world. We are included in the imagination of the kingdom of God. We see what the world does not yet see.
We shouldn’t be surprised. We have been imagined by a creative God who made us in his image. We are beautifully designed as God’s carefully curated centrepieces of creation. We aren’t meant to passively adorn the walls of His world, we are invited to participate in God’s cosmic re-creation project as artists and creators of his renewed world. We are invited to enter into God’s story of renewal and restoration. We are invited to live with a kingdom imagination. And we are invited to lead with a kingdom imagination.
What does it look like to lead imaginatively? For starters, it means not being boring. The kingdom of God is the inbreaking of colour and light and life and beauty and justice and freedom and a whole new story to live by. We live and lead now in a way that points to a new world that is more, not less, than the best of life now. We live and lead now as vocal, living witnesses of the world to come. We live and lead now as proactive authors of God’s imagined future.
And leaders, imagination is not just about having more brainstorming sessions. We practise imagination by noticing more, wondering more, celebrating more of what we hear and see of God at work in and around us. We develop our imaginations by exploring our neighbourhoods, nature, and new ideas. We expand our imaginations by reading more fiction and poetry, immersing ourselves in the arts and spending more time with new friends. We encourage and develop imagination by making room for creativity and experimentation in our organisational culture. We take risks and step into new opportunities. We make it ok to fail and to try again.
What new frontiers are on your horizon?
What new rhythm do you need to put into practice?
What spaces and experiences do you need to curate to expand you and your team’s imagination?
Consider afresh the wonderful invitation of King Jesus to join him in the most imaginative new work of all, the beautiful, justice filled, love overflowing, inbreaking kingdom of God. And when you think you have just imagined an amazing new future, pray to the one who can do far, far more than we can ask or even imagine, to the one whose power is already at work within you and the church, to him be the glory, in the church, and in King Jesus, and in every generation, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3.20-21).
After more than a decade as Lead Pastor revitalising a neighbourhood church, Elliot now serves as Leadership & Mission Facilitator at Baptist Churches of SA. Elliot is married to Sarah, a talented artist, and together they have three children, Aarian, Ronin and Torin. Elliot’s passions include community engagement, the development of leaders, and inspiring kingdom imagination in our churches. Elliot enjoys adventures with the family and finding moments of wonder in our world.