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The prophetic and creativity

Within the church family, ‘the prophetic’ is a term both avoided and leaned into. It’s something that fuels ministry for some, whilst others often avoid it. There are many reasons that some of us have turned away from the term, it may be due to bad experiences, cessationist teaching, or simply never being taught it. Whatever your stance, I’m here to say that our negative experiences of ‘the prophetic’, our view of scripture and what we have been taught should inform how we listen to God’s voice, but when we drop ‘the prophetic’ completely we are cutting ourselves off from the way God wants to communicate with his people, and I believe it is destroying our creativity. ‘The prophetic’ is not just the gift of prophecy, but extends into how we think, feel, and communicate with God and the world around us. It inspires our missional imagination and creativity.

 

Brueggemann argues that prophetic ministry is very much about the imagination of the church community, how they view the world and engage with the world as a result - specifically seeking to penetrate the despair and numbness of its day, believing and embracing a new future[1]. It’s discovering the mind of Christ and offering his truth, life and hope in what can be a dark world. Prophetic imagination is missional. His focus on the imagination is a misunderstood dimension of the prophetic. Much of this is done as we walk, talk, play and dream. It’s when I read the Bible and take a moment to stop and pray, asking God “what are you saying and how does that impact me or the world around me?”, it’s when I go on a walk and the way a tree has grown speaks to my imagination connecting nature with God’s Character, it’s when I have nothing left so I put the music on and dance with abandonment - releasing my prayer to God, it’s when on the rare occasions I take a paint brush out and strike colour across the page, it’s when I go the cinema and ask God to speak through the narrative…

 

When we let God speak to us through creativity and imagination, we are shaped and formed in new ways. Creativity and imagination allow us to articulate what we can’t, or perhaps shouldn’t, in words, to dream a Christ filled future, to see the old made new, to speak life into the darkness, calling forth God’s life into the world. This is deeply prophetic. Tom Wright says that art “…offers the chance to say several things at the same time in a way which ordinary prose finds almost impossible, one has the possibility not only to say, but to express and embody the truth of Hopkin’s poem, both the sudden flaming out of Glory and the tragic disappointment of creation spoiled by ‘man's smudge and smell’ - and the resolution on the further side.”[2] Art can be deeply prophetic because it taps into both the messiness of humanity and the glory of God, imagining a new future in Christ. Creativity needs to be actively encouraged in our churches as it’s a way to bring the Kingdom of God into the imagination of the church and to breathe Spirit filled life into its missional adventures; to be prophetic.

 

The prophetic invites us to hear the Spirit’s missional whisper, to creatively make sense of his words and to express his hope filled voice in this world. It involves imagination and action, dreaming with God and living that dream in the world, and a prophetic church is one where the culture of discerning the missional Spirit and following his lead is right at the centre.

 

Jo Allen,

Rural Ministries


[1] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd edn (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), p. 117.

[2] N.T. Wright, History and Eschatology (London: SPCK, 2019), pp. 269–267.


First published in MOSAIC Issue 12, January - April - December 2024

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