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Faithful Imagination For Such a Time as This

I love that phrase from the story of Esther, don’t you? God’s weaving of her story and her strength, “for such a time as this” for the people of Israel in the midst of crisis.   

As I’ve been reviewing Dr. Patrick Manning’s practical and profound way new book Converting the Imagination:Teaching to Recover Jesus’ Vision for Fullness of Life, I am struck again at how Manning offers a methodology for developing patterns of discipleship and faith formation in what we thought was our post-pandemic reality but now appears to be our re-pandemic reality.

How do we think of forming faith in “such a time as this?”  

Manning focuses first and foremost on awakening the imagination. I talked about that in my last blog HERE. But then Manning asserts the importance of challenging the limitations of what we see. Hang with me here.This IS about forming faith in and through what we are going through right now. He says:  

As teachers of the faith, we need to challenge learners not only to develop  an authentically Christian worldview but also to strengthen their capacity to confront this countervailing current as it continues to grow stronger. (p.161)

When he wrote his book two years ago, there was no way that Manning could anticipate what was going to happen to our country and our world. That countervailing current is stronger than ever.   

He goes on to say that:

 if learners can at least catch a glimpse of a  more adequate worldview and way of imagining, they will have found a life raft in which to weather the storm until they can find a sturdier vessel. It is the responsibility of teachers of the faith to provide learners with this life raft in the interim. (p.162)

Here are three critical imagination building focuses for your ministry for this fall–whether people are able to gather or not:  

Process Experiences

At this time in our life together, Christians of all ages desperately need time and space to tell their stories.This is the life raft for our NOW that Manning is referring to. Let us as ministry leaders help facilitate conversations with people of all ages.Set other activity aside, use gathered time, help people listen to one another rather than the lone voice of a teacher.     

Cultivate New Habits. 

Manning focuses his last chapter on helping people move from imagination to conversion. Meaning that they make new and different life choices based on their newly opened imaginations. Manning sees this happening through the ingraining of new habits–spiritual practices, prayer, etc.  People have talked about how Covid has upended their lives and created space for new things that they do not want to let go of.  Let’s focus on making the habits of faith expressed every day, not just “attending church” the focus of our formation efforts–in such a time as this.  

Keep Directly Focused on People

Finally, as Manning moves to the third step in his methodology, he again points us to the contours of Jesus’ teaching style.  He says, “Jesus did not always offer clear explanations or straight answers to people’s questions. What he does more consistently is initiate relationships and invite people to be with Him.” (p. 213) Many people are emotionally saturated and relationally empty.  In such a time as this, we can form people amid crisis by loving them the way Jesus did.   

Dr. Nancy Going serves as the Director of Research & Resource Development for Vibrant Faith. Nancy lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband Art, an Anglican priest, and they have launched two new families from their children.

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