Yep, magazines. A pastor friend of mine had a seasoned mentor who asked him what magazines he subscribed to. “None,” my friend answered matter-of-factly, “I read books on faith and theology.”
“If you are the most imaginative person you know, your ministry is in serious trouble,” his mentor replied. “Magazines are an excellent way to spark imagination and be in conversation with people who are at the cutting edge of their field…particularly in fields that are not your own.”
This forever changed how I preach. Every month, the limits of my imagination are blown wide open. I listen to brilliant people (in magazines) who are leading in fields I will never fully understand. Each time, I ask the same question I’ve always asked: “Where is the Gospel at work in this story?”
Make no mistake, the foundation that I’ve built in studying theology has been crucial in my understanding of who God is. But no longer do I have to solely rely on opaque quotations from long-dead theologians in order to point people to the Gospel. It’s a heckuva lot more fun to be able to say, “…and I think these recent breakthroughs in neuroscience (or mass transportation, or urban farming techniques, etc) have a lot to say about the way the Gospel works in our world…”
By now, my extra-biblical studies have gone well-beyond magazines and into the realms of modern dance, college football, nutrition, entrepreneurship, and my personal favorite…the Nature Channel. I find the more that I practice looking for the Gospel in other people’s fields, the better I (and my congregation) get at noticing God’s handiwork in the day-to-day activities of normal life. As it turns out, God hadn’t gotten boring…my imagination had.
And frankly, I think I’m in good company, as Jesus made a fine career of talking about the Kingdom of God in light of different professions. “Speaking of fishing, (or farming or shepherding or wine making),” he would say, “I’m reminded of how the Kingdom of God works…”
Bottom line: The Gospel should capture our imagination. In fact, it should blow our imagination away. We sell things short when we only use theological terminology to explain theology. Try the Nature Channel instead.