When I was discerning the next step in terms of pursuing vocational ministry, a kind pastor friend suggested that I keep a notebook with me at all times. Strange advice to one just considering going to seminary, I thought. He told me that as a pastor and preacher, this had helped him numerous times to capture ideas and insights that proved useful in sermon writing. I loved the idea, but since I was not really intending to do much preaching, I just filed it away with the rest of the ideas I had been given. Great idea; one day, I might just do that.
Now in my second year as a church planter and pastor of The Well at Springfield, I find that there are not enough notebooks to hold all of the ideas, hopes and dreams that enter my mind. The ones that most capture my attention usually find their way to some scrap piece of paper, journal page or book margin. If I were to make a collage of them all, I would probably have a pretty good idea of where I am being drawn in life and ministry. Unfortunately, I often don’t take the time to do this. Many of my ideas stay scattered on sticky notes and never make their way into a collection, much less into a plan of action.
Drawing boards, blank spaces used to sketch out designs, are another avenue for recording and testing ideas. Used by engineers and architects, these devices help people see what has only been in their imaginations. Moving an image from the mind and onto paper helps bring it to life. You not only begin to see what could be, but you can edit, erase and begin shaping this possibility. This is the first step toward action. So often, we fail to take this step. We either don’t make the time or we do not think of this as an important part of discernment. We are quick to act, spending little time expressing what is really stirring around in our hearts and minds.
If asked if we believed that God could be revealed through our thoughts, dreams and imaginations, most of us would say yes. If asked whether or not we are in need of imagining new ways of being church, many of us would say yes. How many of us, then, are creating spaces in our lives, in our churches and in our communities where ideas can move from the recesses of our minds to the drawing board? I can’t think of anything more life-giving and hope-filling than providing such a space…unless, of course, we then supported one another in community, encouraging each other to move our ideas into action.