Jonah Lehrer’s new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works is a fascinating read.

The first section of the book focuses on creativity from an individual point of view, a section I personally found very illuminating when thinking about sermon preparation.

However, the second half of the book focused on creativity from a corporate point of view and I found many insights for thinking about how we do church.

One of the insights that I was particularly drawn to was Lehrer’s discussion of how cities foster creativity. He says of cities:

Because cities force us to mingle with people of different ‘social distances’ – we have dinner parties with friends, but we also talk to strangers on the street – we end up being exposed to a much wider range of worldviews.

The reason I find this so intriguing is that when I was writing the book, The Gift of Church, I had initially entitled the chapter on community “Soul Mates.”

This – I thought – communicated the idea that in and through church we find deep community with other Christians. However, friends who read the pre-published book thought the idea of “Soul Mates” communicated the 1980s and Richard Bach – not exactly what I was going for. So I abandoned that metaphor.

Searching for a new one, I came upon the metaphor of the city, mostly through reading Jacques Ellul’s The Meaning of the City. Ellul points out that the first city in human history was built by Cain as a means to try to overcome his cursed existence as a restless wanderer (Genesis 4). Rather than condemn this effort, God redeems Cain’s attempt at creating community so that throughout the Scriptures God is creating the City of God, a place where we can dwell with each other and with him. The progressive revelation of the City of God, culminates at the end of time when the New Jerusalem, a city, comes down from heaven to earth (Rev. 21). The city, therefore, is a powerful metaphor for what God intends to happen in and through the church.

When I read what Jonah Lehrer had to say about the city fostering creativity, it deepened my understanding of the church as a city. In church we should come in contact with those who are like us and those who are different than us, just like in a city.

The seemingly random interactions of people in a physical city results in huge advances in art and science. In the church, one of the results of the seemingly random interactions of diverse people all worshipping the same God is huge advances in spiritual growth and creative approaches in encouraging one another to live faithfully in this fallen world.

For this reason, a church must not only get its people into smaller communities where we can share dinner with friends, it must also continue to foster the seemingly random interactions of all the people who are part of the church. One of the dangers of the trend in larger churches of running all service projects, care responsibilities, and missions work through small groups is that it cuts down on the random interactions that need to happen outside of small groups.

At Calvary, individuals in small groups still need to attend maturity classes like Fundamentals of the Faith or participate in short-term missions trips – not just with their small group members – but as individuals who are part of Calvary Church. These opportunities will provide sparks of creativity and growth as we strive to be Christ’s church in this place.

That is one reason why I am so excited that more than 500 people from Calvary Church are meeting on Saturday to build two houses for Habitat for Humanity. If you are signed up to be part of the project, make sure to meet someone new, it’s part of what God’s desires to happen on Saturday.


2 thoughts on “Imagine

    • Jim’s tribute posted on September 29. If you click on the September link under the archives section on the right side of the blog, it will be the first post that comes up.

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