Imagination and pioneering

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A phase I liked a lot is “re-imagining church.”  I know we use so much jargon and soundbite in church circles but what I like about this is what it says, that the Fresh Expressions movement is an act of the imagination.

Steve Johnson (Where Good Ideas Come From) suggests the key to imagination is the “adjacent possible.”  Put simply each imaginative step is not a big leap but simply a journey through the next door or opening.  If you’re working with a new housing estate or young people what’s the next imaginative step rather than the big leap?

Einstein put it like this…

“You can never solve a problem on the level at which it was created…You must learn to see the world anew.”

Many of you are experiencing this sort of process right now. Faced with cultural changes, new environments and contexts you are working with others to see church “anew.”  Fresh Expressions pioneers both reinvest in the church’s future but also imagine new ways of being the family of God. This is the reason why church pioneering is so exciting to me.  These new ideas and steps will change the church for good and I hope society as well.

In my own lay pioneering I’ve come across three simple tools that aid my imagination and help to re-imagine church.

  1. Give myself space.  Being imaginative is tough when your life is already full.  If you’re running at 100 miles an hour, the task of creating new ideas will seem onerous and a burden.  You may feel stretched and so a new idea feels beyond you.  When my life is too full I seek to cut something back to create space.  This feels costly but always brings fresh life.  I guess this is an entrepreneurial version of “unless a seed falls to the ground and dies.” (John 12:24)
  2. Refresh my mind.  Silence is a friend to creatives.  The practice of being still and silent always brings creative ideas and imagination.  Why not try 5 minutes and see what happens to start with.  You can check out our ideas for this with Space to Breathe.
  3. Let chaos be your friend.  Creatives and the pioneer have always operated in chaotic spaces. Margaret Wheatley (Leadership and the New Science) is one of many to notice that the chaotic places are often the places of new ideas and of new progress. This is risky and difficult to be in as new pathways are forged, but this is space we must inevitably travel into.  Chaos and change can be the most brilliant openings for new ideas.

As you go about pioneering Fresh Expressions of Church I’d like to say thank you.  The inspiration I find on this website and on the Fresh Expressions App are fuel for my journey.  Keep doing what you’re doing.


Andy Freeman is a lay pioneer and runs a  Community Interest Company called Space to Breathe, based in Sheffield