The difficulty of discussing the topic of imagination is that everyone is familiar with it.  And one of my favorite sayings goes, familiarity can lead to unfamiliarity.  Everyone lives out of, is guided by and engages with their imagination all the time, whether they realize it or not.  And the difficulty in discussing imagination is that many people perceive imagination is left to the realm of fantasy and child’s play.  C.S. Lewis once said, “Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”  There’s a whole lot more happening with our imagination than meets the eye.

The other difficulty in discussing imagination is that it can be slightly tricky to define. Some might say that imagination is our creative capacity or the ability to think outside the box in unique ways.  Both good definitions, but the definition that most resonates with me is…

imagination: the ability to see what isn’t, but has the potential to be.

Living out of our imagination is about embarking on new territory.  It’s about breaking new ground.  It’s about exploring the possibilities of things not yet done.  In a sense, it’s asking the “What if…?” question.  Through the centuries it’s been imagination and this “What if…?” question that has been responsible for major cultural shifts in history.  In our country alone, think back to the late 19th century when Graham Bell asked the question, “What if there was a device that would allow me to speak to someone who happened to be in a different city or state.” Or, in the early 20th century when two brothers, Orville and Wilbur, started to ask the question, “What if we could put humans in flight?”  And still even more recent, someone like Mark Zuckerburg asking, “What if there was a virtual on-line community where people could share their lives with friends and family all around the world?”

Imagination has the ability to change the world as we know it.

When it comes to following Jesus, I would go so far to say that living with a vivid imagination is the call of Jesus on our lives.  But the call to live with a vivid imagination isn’t just to dream up new ideas for the sake of dreaming up new ideas.  Rather, it’s a call to live with a certain type of imagination, a Kingdom imagination.

In Mark 1, following on the heals of John the Baptist, Jesus comes on the scene and begins to announce, “The time has come.  The Kingdom of God has come near.  Repent and believe the good news!” In a sense Jesus is saying a new reality is breaking in to the current way of living and it’s time for people to get on board with this new way of being. All throughout his ministry Jesus announced the Kingdom, told stories about the Kingdom and even embodied the Kingdom.  His ministry was all about the Kingdom.  And the invitation of Jesus is that we can be partners with him in his Kingdom NOW!!

At this point you may be asking, “Okay Bryan… that’s great, but what does it look like to live with a Kingdom imagination?”  I am glad you asked.  Cause I have seen no better example in the last year than this.

This is a Kingdom imagination at its finest.  You have a group of people asking the “What if…?” question.  “What if we were to extend the Kingdom to the opposing team? What if we were to lower ourselves so that they might be lifted up? What if we were to give the abundance and overflow of what we have to those who are in need?”  As Dallas Willard says, “The good news of Jesus isn’t just that the Kingdom of God is at hand, but it’s the availability of the Kingdom to everyone.”  It’s available especially to the down and out, those on the margins of society (Matthew 5v3-12).

Our jobs as followers of Jesus is to be imaginative and creative in finding ways of extending his Kingdom to places and people in our local community that are in need of a fresh manifestation of grace. We are called to forge new ‘Kingdom’ territory and to break new ‘Kingdom’ ground.  We are called to be salt and light, a city on a hill.  And when this Kingdom imagination breaks into the present reality people take notice and lives are changed.

The beautiful thing about a Kingdom imagination is that it isn’t always worked out in over the top sorts of ways.  But most often, it’s most needed in small and simple ways. It’s needed in our homes with our spouse and kids.  It’s needed with that neighbor across the way who is having trouble paying their bills this month. It’s needed at work with that co-worker who always gets on our last nerve.  Those living out of a Kingdom imagination see the need for fresh expressions of grace in the mundane and routine areas of life.  They learn to ask the “What if…?” question in places where they live every day.  So…..

May your imagination be captured by the Kingdom of God.
May your imagination grow and flourish as you faithfully follow Jesus.
May you learn to ask the “What if…?” question everywhere you go.

Next Post: Community Imagination, How the communities in which we are engaged shape our imagination.