The Human:Holy-Spirit-Interface in Creative-Ideas-Generation for Evangelism and Witnessing
Seminary students, y ou start out with hearts thumping with passion and zeal (See Clint's What Vets Can Teach Seminoids
). You want to stand on soap boxes and preach to crowds (and would welcome the odd tomato thrown at you - just ask Clint). You want to go on Short Term Missions trips and play basketball with the bunch of guys that gather at the local court every Thursday afternoon and lead them all to Christ with passion.
Then the academics
hit you like a gloved George Foreman hand. Before too long, you are burying your head in John Owen, John MacArthur, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards (why so many Johns?). Why? Because you need to learn the Truth. In order to be able to teach your flock, you need to be able to teach. The main qualification of an elder is he must be able to teach. How can he teach if he has not been taught? So your Professors want to pump you full of as much information as possible, and to equip you to be able to continue learning and to teach others.
But a significant side-effect of this is that your creative ideas for evangelizing may dry up.
You know you are utterly unable to save anyone at all - it is entirely and completely a work of God through the Holy Spirit. But, God also gives us creativity. Just because we should rely on the Holy Spirit and prayer, it doesn’t mean we must sit on the park bench and expect someone to walk up to us and say “Please tell me how I must be saved?” It isn’t going to happen. This is where my secret weapon comes in.
Here are four steps to use mindmapping techniques to stimulate your creativity...
1. Use life experience.
Douglas Wilson says on page 23 of his excellent book Wordsmithy
“When you are out and about, you are watching the gaudy show called life and are trying to learn from it. This is harder to do if you are busy being the star of the show.”
Learn to use all your senses when you are out and about. When you go out for coffee, don’t just pull out your textbook and scribble study notes. Put away your books, sit back and watch people. Watch the way people interact with one another. Watch how people sit when they are obvious lovers. Volunteer at an orphanage; at an animal shelter. Do things that expose you to a variety of things in life. This all adds rich fodder to your imagination and to your experience.
2. Use the right material.
You will need a large piece of paper (I like using an A1 or an A2 size piece of paper), and obviously a pen. I don’t like using computer software to do this kind of mindmapping. For brainstorming, you want to be able to see all of your ideas at one glance.
And if you are coming up with 20 to 30 ideas, you want to be able to see them all at once. Included in the right material is the right space (a good sized desk), free from distractions (switch off your cell phones, close your laptop and put away your iPad), in the right frame of mind (well rested, spiritual affairs “in order”).
Use multiple different colored pens and highlighters for grouping and highlighting and linking your ideas later one. If you have space on your wall in your study, you can later use that space to put your large brainstormed mindmaps on it.
3. Don’t edit as you write.
I cannot stress this enough. Even if you think that your idea is completely far out and totally unrelated to witnessing and evangelism, write it down anyway. Do this for two reasons. First, the Holy Spirit has His own reasons for prompting the thought in you. Second, your brain may have a formed a dendritic connection somewhere deep in your frontal lobe that may only become apparent to you a little later in the brainstorming process. During the process of the brainstorming, your brain will start to connect those concepts subconsciously.
Complex brain imaging has recently shown us that in a situation like this, even if we are working on something else, subconsciously, our brain will be attempting to find the neural pathway to connect what you wrote with the topic at hand.
4. Highlight and connect ideas that can be grouped together.
After you are absolutely sure you have run out of ideas, leave your mindmap overnight. Come back to it the next morning and sit with it for about another 15 minutes or so and see if there are any new ideas that come to the fore. New brain imaging techniques have shown definitively that our brains process information and perform actual problem-solving during certain phases of sleep. That’s why the old adage “I’ll sleep on it” is actually true!
Once you are sure your ideas have run out, haul out your highlighters and colored pens. Start to group your ideas and link them. At this point it is up to you if you want to create another mindmap that is neater and better organized. But you may be like me and become affectionately attached to your original mindmap! Whichever you choose, the main point here is chunking your ideas into cohesive groups that you can use in the final point.
5. Convert your chunks into plans of action.
Now that you have chunked your information, it is time to convert those chunks into plans of action.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can develop these action plans. I would suggest following the simple P.P.E.F. formula:
a. Plan your strategy.
Perhaps this means adjusting your schedule to allow you to go to that basketball court every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m.
b. Prepare for your action.
This could take the form of ensuring you are fit enough and know enough to be able to easily fit in and play a good competitive game of basketball (although don’t be too competitive - winning isn’t your aim, remember!). Preparation could also take the form of learning about the neighborhood, the youth in the area, the needs in the area, major problems or issues in the community, or possible gang territories. Preparation could also take the form of becoming better in an area where you may be uncomfortable. Maybe you find it difficult to strike up a conversation. Well, guess what? There’s a book called Always Know what to Say
by Peter Murphy that you can currently get on Amazon Kindle for free. Get creative.
c. Execute the Plan.
Now for some application of elastic hydrocarbon polymer to opus caementicium. (Rubber hits the concrete). There comes a time when you need transition from talking and thinking, to actual doing. So, just do it. But it might take time. Lots of it. It might take a few months to build friendships on that basketball court. Sometimes you cannot rush things. But, by the same token, you cannot let opportunities slip away. If an opportunity presents itself, grab it with both hands.
This is where you bring you new prize fish to church. Introduce them to your friends at church (if they aren’t already involved in your action plan - hey, did I just give you an idea?). If they’ve declared a commitment to Christ, plug this new believer into your home-group. Bring him under your wing. Shepherd him, counsel him, teach him. You’ve got yourself a baby believer that needs the milk of the Word. Teach it lovingly and with passion and delight.
And it all started with a silly old mindmap? No, it started with God, was carried out by God, was all about God, was completed by God, all for God’s glory.
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