Updated: Apr 22, 2020
After spending time discovering the gifts God has placed around us, it is natural to begin daydreaming about what all those gifts might mean. Imagining the possibilities is part strategy, part brainstorming, and part prayer. By starting with gifts, we allow God to shape and guide and color what shalom-building we will put our hands to, in this way we follow God’s lead. If discovering the gifts requires the virtue of curiosity, imagining the possibilities involves nurturing the virtue of creativity.
While it may seem simpler to start with problems and try and discern solutions, people and local communities just aren’t like simple machines that require linear straight-forward solutions. People and communities are more like complex adaptive systems – which call for a focus on possibilities rather than on problems.
This places us squarely in the realm of creativity and improvisation. This doesn’t mean making stuff up – improvisation always starts with a given, in this case the gifts God has placed within us and around us. And this is where truly generative thinking comes in. No cookie-cutter shalom kits – mission cannot be pre-planned in this way. Instead, we exercise prayerful creativity. We imagine what new shalom possibilities the gifts around us might suggest. Christians have always had to improvise in this way when pursuing the common good. In fact, this is part of what drew non-Christians to the early church – watching their “boldly creative” Christian neighbors steward their gifts creatively for the sake of the common good.
From the forthcoming title The Hopeful Neighborhood, copyright 2020 LHM. This is not the final form, please do not distribute or quote.