If imagination is such an essential part of preaching, how do you cultivate it?
1. READ!! And not just non-fiction. (Whenever I hear someone say smugly that they never read fiction, I realize that I have someone who is both very boring as well as inexperienced in life.) Wiersbe suggests reading poetry and children’s stories as well as history, biography and theology.
All truth is God’s truth and (as Phillips Brooks reminds us) all truth intersects.
2. The preacher must LIVE!!
He must mix learning and living, the library and the marketplace. He must be among his people, with the publicans and sinners as well as the preachers and saints. Emerson said, "If you would learn to write, ’tis in the street you must learn it. … The people, and not the college, is the writer’s home." Substitute the word "preacher" for "writer," and take it to heart.
Martin Luther used to say that prayer, meditation, and suffering made a preacher, and he was right. Sermons are not made from books so much as from battles and burdens. Hermeneutics professors take note: some in the Bible who suffered most gave us the most imaginative pictures of spiritual truth—Moses, David, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, John, and Paul … not to mention our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Cultivate a sense of humor.
A humorist has been defined as a person who can see more than one thing at a time—and that is what imagination is all about. If you know how to laugh—and why you laugh—you can feed your imagination on humor.
4. Regain your child-like sense of wonder at life.
Spend your days with your eyes and ears open, your mind constantly inquiring. Beware of coming to a place in life where you feel you have learned it all and done it all. When you come to that place, you are entering a dead-end street." What is experience," asked advertising magnate Alex Osborn, "but a wealth of parallels upon which our imagination can draw?"
5. Intentionally set aside time for relaxation and meditation.
Creative people need times of incubation as well as times of investigation. Your best ideas may come when you least expect them, provided you have been doing your homework. We must get away from things in order to see them clearly.
Each person must know his own creative cycle: when to study, when to get away from the desk, and how to make the best use of free time. We need parentheses in our lives. This means setting priorities. Creative people know how to say no.
These are helpful words for me as well as for all of us who preach. #5 is the most difficult for me. In recent months I have tried to write "on demand." But I come to those writing times so drained from the experiences of ministry that there is nothing left to give. I have a few ways in the hopper that I am hoping to try to regain (or gain for the first time) those intention times for relaxation and meditation.