Saturday, September 12, 2009

Imagination and Story in Evangelism

From an interview of Todd Hunter in CT's September 2009 issue:

You write about the evangelistic importance of shaping the imagination. What does that mean?

The average person doesn't live out of data and propositions. They live out of their imaginations. When I almost moved to Washington State to play rookie league baseball, what animated me was my dream of playing in the major leagues. I knew the facts of baseball. I knew the rules. I knew the history and the great players. But what fueled me was my imagination.

Stories create imagination, and imagination creates possibility.

This is where Eugene Peterson's work about the power of story to shape imagination has been so helpful. He says that if you genuinely think Christianity is a story about going to heaven when you die, it is no accident that fostering discipleship is like pulling teeth. I'm trying to get people to switch stories to reshape their imaginations. If we recast the gospel as something that gives us life, not just a secure death, then discipleship and mission become normative because they become more intuitive.

How do people move to the bigger good-life and secure-death story?

In our story, heaven is not the goal; it's the destination. We're going to reign with God forever in the renewed heaven and renewed earth. That's our destination. But the goal of Christianity is spiritual transformation into Christlikeness.

If my dream of playing baseball had come true, I wouldn't have called my dad and said, "I'm going to New York." No, I would have said, "I got drafted by the Yankees." New York is not the goal. It's simply the destination.

When people are on a journey of discovery, at what point do you think, The Spirit of God is now leading me to pose the question that gets them to cross the line?

In much of post-World War II evangelicalism, we asked people to cross a finish line. So it went: apologetics, apologetics, apologetics, then, okay, you get it now, you need to make a decision, and you get to go to heaven when you die. What I'd prefer to see is apologetics, enculturation, saying the prayers, and then you come to a line, but it's a starting line: Are you ready to become a follower of Jesus? Can you now see the big intention of God for the earth and what he was doing through Christ and Pentecost and creating the people of God? Are you willing to join that family and take up that family's cause through following Jesus?

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