The Solo Pastor & the Christian Imagination

A fruitful solo pastor engages the world through a Christian Imagination.

That’s a bit ambiguous, so let’s see if we can flesh it out – put some humanness, some real-world into it.  Engaging the world through a Christian Imagination is to say that there is a particular way to live in the world – a Christian way.  This is not exclusive to solo pastors, but to all who follow the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

A couple months ago, a local farming couple welcomed farmers from across the globe into their home.  Some were from Canada and the rest were scattered across the European landscapes.  The Canadian farmers were the most interesting for our local couple because of the ways in which they used solar power and compost to run their farms.  Their creativity and imaginations completely transformed their farming practices in ways that shrunk their ecological footprints.  Around the same time this couple was telling me about their foreign visitors, I stumbled upon this article about an Amish farm that is ‘leading the way to local food security in Indiana.’

When I hear and read stories like these, I cannot help but wonder if this is what a Christian Imagination looks like.  Countless examples can be found of individuals, organizations, and businesses who are engaging their worlds in ways that are directly informed by their Christian faith.  Whether it be creating sustainable farming practices, infusing a small town with the arts, reinventing downtown Detroit, or digging fresh water wells in Africa, a Christian Imagination engages the world in Jesus-shaped ways.

Greg Jones and Kavin Rowe talk about this in their articles on Traditioned Innovation, how Scripture invites us to live out of the tension between Tradition and Innovation.  Rowe states:

“Those who live in the pattern of life made possible by [Jesus’] death and resurrection participate most fully in the newness of the world. Whoever is in Christ, says Paul, is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). In Christ, that is, the innovation of God is at its peak. In Christ, [God] remakes the foundations of human life in the very midst of the ongoing, long-running and everyday traditions of the world.”

In the everyday, ordinary, mundanity of life, a Christian Imagination infuses New Life and possibility precisely because that is the work God is doing in this world – the work of making Christ’s Kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.”

This makes me wonder, how might a Christian Imagination engage your context?  What does a Christian Teacher look like?  How does parenting with a Christian Imagination shape and inform the rearing of your children?  How does one weld, change tires, and build new houses “Christianly”?  

I wonder if these are the sorts of questions Fruitful Solo Pastors are asking.  I wonder if their Christian Imaginations drive them out of their offices and into conversations with people in their congregations and communities in order that God’s Spirit might cast a vision of what is possible in the lives of the individuals and community.  I wonder if the Fruitful Solo Pastor engages her/his context with a Christian Imagination in such ways that are continually open to new possibilities.

Last week, our weekly bible study met.  We gather regularly in community to engage with the upcoming week’s sermon scripture passage, and our text was on Ezekiel 34.  In it, God declares that God will come to be the people’s Shepherd.  God will search for the scattered, bring back the lost, bind the injured, strengthen the weak, and will shepherd the flock with justice.

With one eye on the text and the other on our context, a member of our group challenged us: We must find new ways to tell the old story.  In our neighborhood, that may mean have a midweek, family-style dinner followed by games, tutoring, crafts, and basketball.  Many of our neighborhood children are hungry.  Most are growing up in difficult and challenging environments.  Almost all of them are statistically destined to do drugs, drop out of school, and/or end up in prison.  Nearly none of them – statistically – will go one to live “successful” lives.

What’s the church going to do about that?  This woman’s Christian Imagination led to to imagine a new future for these young people – one where the Church is telling the old, old story in a new way: the old story that God loves them, unconditionally, exactly the way they are, but way too much to let them stay that way.

I don’t know what will come of this new ministry endeavor, but I look forward to sitting round plastic tables on folding, rusty metal chairs passing round plates of mac-n-cheese, sharing stories of our days, hopes, and dreams.  I look forward to working on homework, swapping craft projects, playing basketball, and learning new games.

Who knows what will happen?  But I have a feeling that it will look an awful lot like Jesus.

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