Preaching and the Sanctified Imagination

One of the most wonderful things about teaching in a Bible College as a practitioner (I preach and teach in local churches regularly) is that my calling encourages me to reflect more critically upon my pastoral practices. Though my specialization for academia is in Old Testament and theology, I’ve been afforded the opportunities to be the preaching professor for five years now. This has enriched my life as a preacher immensely (whether the congregants have felt so is another issue).
One area that recently has caught my attention in a fresh way is the need for a sanctified imagination in the pulpit.
I know many folks have witnessed imagination in the pulpit, but this is not that. Though, to be sure, one cannot preach without imagination. The very act of preaching requires a movement beyond the text of Scripture even while it should flow from and to Scripture. To simply read the Scriptures is not necessarily to engage the imagination (though any good reading of a text should do so). To say anything beyond simply reading is to engage the imagination and offer something extra-textual. While the act of reading (and hearing) invites imagination we have too often considered ourselves as preachers to simply be saying what the Scriptures say in our preaching. But that would be to only read Scripture (and one might even argue that is still not the case). If we would preach, we must imagine that world as it was, as it is, and as it must finally be (e.g., see Walter Brueggemann’s, The Prophetic Imagination and The Practice of the Prophetic Imagination). Thus, my own reflections on the act of preaching lead me to conclude the act of preaching is an act of the imagination.
This does not mean a free-for-all imagining, but a sanctified imagination. If a preacher would preach Christ they must have a sanctified imagination.
A sanctified magination is one that has been immersed in, and is being transformed by, the Spirit through the Word. It is consumed with meditating on the Word. It sings, speaks, thinks, reads, prays, and then eventually preaches that Word. Such an imagination has found itself in the unbreakable grip of the Father’s love in Christ Jesus–a love that consumes the passions and will of the preacher.
Such a sanctified imagination cannot but declare the revelation of God in Christ. It cannot but speak of King Jesus saving, healing, and baptizing in the Spirit. Such a sanctified imagination sees the world of Scripture playing out before them in fresh ways. This sanctified imagination declares the kingdom of God even as it enacts it in the life of the Spirit-filled community caught in the midst of the world (and living for that world and its redemption).
My prayer for myself, my students and those to whom I share in the preaching of the Word is that our imaginations might increasingly be caught up into the sanctifying life, death, resurrection, and soon coming of Christ who makes all things new.

Change Is Coming

Today was a tear-filled day as I announced my resignation to Karlstad Assembly of God effective the end of July. I have been asked to join the faculty of Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND as Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies. I will be teaching primarily Old Testament, but also hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation) and homiletics (preaching) even while I continue my PhD studies through Bangor University – Wales, UK.
This is an exciting adventure before us, but it is heart-wrenching to leave our church and community that we have grown to love deeply.
There have been many tears shed in our family even as we look with anticipation to what the Lord has for our future. We ask you all to join with us in praying for the Lord’s blessing and care through this transition as we are sent out for new opportunities to be and to make disciples elsewhere.

Seattle Here I Come

I received word today that my paper proposal has been accepted for the annual Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting in Seattle in March 21-23, 2013 hosted by Seattle Pacific University.  I truly enjoy these meetings — the papers, the discussions, the friendships.

If anyone is interested, my paper is titled “Emerging Homiletics: A Pentecostal Response.”  In this paper, I interact primarily with the homiletical proposals of Doug Pagitt (pastor of Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, MN) who is a leading voice in the Emergent Church and has written Preaching Re-Imagined: The Role of the Sermon in Communities of Faith (Zondervan 2005).  From my perspective, I appropriate what I believe is right about Pagitt’s approach and lay out how I believe Pentecostal preaching actually engages the criticisms he raises against “speaching” (Pagitt’s term for contemporary models of preaching). 

So, I’m looking forward to another eventful time at SPS this coming year!