Why Imagination is Key in Evangelism

A person will not believe what they can’t imagine. So, evangelism has to involve imagination.  We have to use our “imaginal intelligence” (imagination) to help the unconverted imagine the reality of GOD, the goodness and love of GOD, the reality of Christ’s payment for our sin, and the benefits of confessing their sin and surrendering their life to HIM.

That’s a big order.  In fact, for evangelism to happen, a person MUST find their “imagination” (Imaginal intelligence) captured by GOD.  They most positively “imagine” the goodness of GOD in Christ.  They must imagine the reality of HIS Love for them. If that doesn’t occur then most likely evangelism probably won’t happen.

That said, it’s important that Christ-followers then start acknowledging the importance of “imagination” – and the related expressions of imaginal intelligence: artistic and creative expressions, beauty, marvel and wonder – in our daily practice of evangelizing.

So let me give you three barriers evangelicals face when considering imagination, and three ways to hurdle those barriers:

First, most times the Hebrew or Greek terms for “imagination” are translated as such in the Bible “Imagination” is seen as vain imaginations – making something up that’s not true, but operating as if it is true (e.g. Neh. 6:8; Prov. 18:11; Jer. 23:16; Ez. 13:2; Acts 17:29; 2 Pet. 1:20).  One might pull a positive, reality-based, dynamic of “imagination” out of Dan. 4:5 or 2 Cor. 2:9  – but frankly most don’t pay much attention to these passages.

Second, the 71 (or so) times “imagination” or “to imagine” are used positively in the Old Testament (yatsar/yetser), the terms are translated  “mind” (e.g. Is. 26:3), “fashion” (e.g. Is. 45:18b NIV), or “formed” (e.g. Is. 45:18c) – so we don’t actually get the real meaning of “imagination” GOD intended (of course this is my conviction).

Third, Protestants have focused so much on the dynamic of “rational” propositions of biblical content (for many good reasons), we have overlooked the biblical revelation of the function and importance of the dynamic of our “imaginal” intelligence. This includes our faith and worship walk and our relating to others evangelistically.

Given the above mentioned barriers to seeing and embracing our imagination, let me suggest three ways to hurdle these barriers.

First, REMEMBER the way GOD used your “imaginal intelligence” – to engage you personally, lovingly, wonderfully, letting you “imagine” HIS goodness, HIS love for you, HIS forgiveness of your sins, and HIS release into HIS embrace?  Think back over how you “imagined” the TRUTH of HIS existence, HIS care for you, the reality of HIS purposes for you, and such.

Second, RECOGNIZE the way you use your capacity to imagine into the foundational realities of our faith – which are really bigger than what we can completely comprehend. A very few examples of this include… 

  1. The reality that Jesus is fully God and fully human (e.g. John 14:9; Phil. 2:5-11);
  2. The reality that His blood satisfied the legal requirements of God’s LAW for the payment of the sins of all humankind (e.g. 1 Jn. 2:2);
  3. The reality that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God interceding for us (e.g. Rom. 8:34; or
  4. That we have a spiritual inheritance given to us through Christ that will never perish (e.g.
    1 Pet. 1: 3-5).

Without using your God-designed capacities of imagination there is no way to look into these realities and to “have faith” in these realities. You must use your “imaginal intelligence” or you will not deeply engage these realities.

Third, RELEASE yourself REGULARLY, give yourself permission, to PRACTICE using your imagination  to interact WITH GOD.  If you don’t practice imagining into the REALITIES of GOD and the LIFE HE’s given us through the work of Christ and the deposit of HIS HOLY SPIRIT, we will not deeply develop the vast frontiers of our God-given imaginative intelligence.

The more you “imagine” into the realities of GOD and HIS working in your life – all in line with His rationally revealed objective REVELATION, the Bible—the more HE will capture YOUR imagination. And, by extension, the more you will be able to help other’s imagination be captured by HIS supremacy, majesty, moral beauty, and HIS pursuing love in Christ for them as well.

Remember, a person will not believe what they can’t imagine. So, evangelism has to involve imagination.  May you be encouraged by what GOD has revealed in Is. 26:3  “You will keep in perfect peace those whose “imaginations” are steadfastly focused on trusting in You.” (Author’s suggested translation).

Author: Byron Spradlin

GOD has used Byron, since he surrendered his life to Christ’s service at age 19, as a musician, recording artist, published songwriter (ASCAP & NARAS), youth pastor, worship pastor, evangelist, church planter, senior pastor, Bible teacher, professor, and artists-in-missions strategist.byron tweet pic Dr. Spradlin is a graduate of Western Seminary, Portland, OR; with a Master of Divinity degree (heavy in Missions, and biblical languages); and there he was the co-founder of the Master of Church Music degree—which he also received there, and for which he served on adjunct faculty for two years in the late 1970’s. He also has done ThM studies (abd) at Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, CA; and in 2012, was awarded the Doctor of Ministry degree (in Worship Studies) from Liberty University’s Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Lynchburg, VA – where he has also teaches courses from time to time in the Worship Studies department. Also, he serves as the international Senior Associate for the ARTS for the global Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He is professor of Worship, Imagination & the Arts at Williamson College in Franklin TN (USA). He also serves as Vice-Board-Chair of the international Jews for Jesus mission, having previously served 35 years as Board Chair and the performance coach for their first music-evangelism team, The Liberated Wailing Wall; and, since 2014, he is serving on the Board of World Venture mission agency based in Denver, CO His ministry experience ranges through almost 50 nations, and from arts in evangelism, missions and ministry, to Jewish & Muslim Evangelism, to church planting, to worship ministry and coaching, and the theology of worship, imagination and the arts. His wife, Pam, and he have been married for since 1974; their two grown children are married, and they have four amazing grand children. Connect with Byron! Byron’s Blog: ByronSpradlin.ComByron at Podium Twitter: @byronspradlin Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/byronlspradlin/ YouTube: Byron’s YouTube Channel

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