I wonder what happened to us? When  we were kids our imagination ran wild. We imagined that we were heroes in war or we were winning the grand final or that we ran a classroom and our dolls were our students. But then we grew up, we went through theological training which rightly taught us what the Bible said and how to interpret it. But we lost something along the way. We lost our imagination.

I was watching a video a while ago that featured Don Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper talking about their theological influences. Both Keller and Piper said that C.S Lewis and Jonathan Edwards both profoundly influenced them. Which got me thinking. What do Lewis and Edwards have in common? The obvious answer is they were Christians who sought to love and understand the Bible and love and understand the God it reveals. But another thing that they had in common was imagination.Both Edwards and Lewis looked at the world with a joyful, child like wonder and imagination. It is no wonder then that both Keller and Piper share this joy and imagination in their preaching even though they sound very different.

One of the reasons we lack imagination is because we are scared that our imagination will take us outside the bounds of orthodoxy. This is a valid fear as we don’t want to let our minds, fueled by unbounded imagination, run away down dead end theological paths which stray from the gospel truth. But I think we need a biblically constrained imagination in our preaching for two reasons:

1. We need to communicate the old Gospel in new ways

One of our mistakes as preachers is to say the same thing week after week in exactly the same way. It is almost like we only have one or two or at best ten sermons. If we use our God given imagination it will help us think how we can connect the passage that we are preaching with the gospel in new ways and we will also be able to tell the gospel in fresh ways. I think Tim Keller is a genius at this. He always talks about grace in his sermons but he uses a number of different ways to explain and apply grace. When  you listen to him you never feel like he is just trotting out his “grace bit” in the sermon when he preaches grace it is always brilliantly communicated and applied. So if we engage our imagination we will find new ways of faithfully presenting the gospel.

2. Our culture is changing

The way our culture thinks about almost everything is changing rapidly. Our culture is changing so fast and we need to use our imagination to engage the culture in helpful ways. We need to work out how to answer the questions of the heart that our people have. We can’t use the answers of yesterday or answer the questions of today and we can;t use the answers of today to answer the questions of tomorrow.This requires a great deal of imagination.

What is great preaching? It is preaching that is grace and hope filled, imaginative, faithful expositions of the Biblical text.

What else would you add?

You may also like:

What Makes Great Preaching Great? Part 3: Grace

What Makes Great Preaching Great? Part 2: Hope

What Makes Great Preaching Great? Part 1: Faithfulness

 

 

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