Reclaiming Imagination: An Update

Months ago I wrote on this site about the need for the church to reclaim its imagination in order to feed the imagination-starved world. If you have not yet, please do read that post before continuing.

Since writing that post, I have invested myself in the task of practically realizing the idea of becoming an imaginative church. I could not, in good conscience, leave such an abstract idea floating around on the internet without some sort of example to concretize the theory. After research, multiple focus groups, and months of planning, here is the result.

While reading Ordinary Preacher, Extraordinary Gospel by Chris Neufeld-Erdman, I stumbled across a story of a church that had invested itself to creating sacred art. [1] Once, this church folded prayers into origami doves and hung them on Pentecost Sunday over their communion table, and another time they had members make crosses to represent their sins, struggles, or relationship with Jesus, during which one woman made a cross out of empty anti-depressant bottles to show her trust in God to help in her struggle with depression. The latter idea caught my eye. What better way to visually and artistically tell the gospel story than to corporealize the cross out of materials that represent our relationship to the cross and Jesus?

I gathered a few individuals at my own congregation who happen to be much more artistically minded than myself and asked them to brainstorm what other crosses we could make. Imaginations were given permission to creatively represent stories of faith, and I was amazed. Soon we had a list of dozens of crosses including: a cross made out of Barbies to show one person’s struggle with body image; a cross made out of toy ladders to visualize another’s temptation to pursue corporate advancement to unhealthy levels; a cross made out of dollar bills folded into origami and strung together to demonstrate one’s efforts to manipulate money, and a cross made out of clocks to represent another’s struggle with anxiety and worry.

The list kept growing, and finally, after months of preparation and collecting supplies, we set the church’s imagination loose to make crosses, and it was beautiful. One man made a family map of himself, his current family, and his family from a divorce; amidst broken threads and unbroken threads tying him to his family, he had firmly chained himself to a cross to show the permanence and anchor that is faith during his tumultuous past. Another broke a mirror and hot-glued bullet shells on top of the broken mirror to show the effects of violence. Yet another made a cross-shaped pillow stuck with dozens of sewing pins to visualize her life of chronic pain. Within an hour, dozens of crosses had been imagined and realized in an artistic expression telling personal stories of the power of the cross. It was beautiful and heart wrenching. (A few photos are included at the bottom of this post.)

The next step is to hang these crosses in our lobby where they will be the first thing people see as they enter our building. They will be mounted amid several Scriptures declaring the power of the cross, such as:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. (Gal 2:19-20)

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. (Rom 6:6-7)

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:27-28)

Together, these verses and crosses make an imaginative declaration of faith: through the power of the cross we have given up our sins, entrusted our struggles to God, and submitted our identity markers to our identity in Christ. The crosses are not the artistic quality of Rembrandt or Handel, but they are one church’s attempt to artistically realize the gospel story for others to encounter, discuss, and find hope in. We’ve begun to reclaim our imagination and put it to the service of the gospel.

[1] Chris Neufeld-Erdman, Ordinary Preacher, Extraordinary Gospel (Eugene, OR; Cascade Books, 2014), 133.

Chess serves as the pulpit minister at Gateway Church of Christ in Queen Creek, Arizona. A born and raised Texan, Chess earned a B.A., M.Div., and M.A. in New Testament from Abilene Christian University. He is passionate about God and his family, and deeply desires to help others fall in love with God so that they may imitate the life and love of Christ. Chess loves to read, learn, and have deeper conversations about God. He also enjoys Formula One racing, playing golf, working on and rebuilding cars, and translating and studying dead languages.

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Author:  Publish Date: May 11, 2017

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @

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