On Being Generative

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes

Dear Christ Church,

We are generative.

I have been drawn to the power of this word ever since I was a graduate student in linguistics twenty years ago, studying Noam Chomsky’s theory called “generative linguistics.” The word “generate” evokes not just creativity in the sense of the fine arts, but the making of a life, the making of a new world, even. That sounds like the gospel to me.

I was delighted recently to come across some writings by the artist Makoto Fujimura, in which he reflects extensively on the word “generative” from the perspective of Christian discipleship (which, in turns out, was first brought to his attention through his father, a linguist who also studied Noam Chomsky).

In his book, Culture Care, Fujimura describes the generative life in terms of other words with the same root: generations, generous, and genesis. A generative life thinks generationally, considers how our life contributes to others, those who came before us and who will remain after us. A generative life is also generous, tapped into mindset of bounty, not scarcity, grateful for the abundance of God’s creative goodness and giving abundantly of ourselves and resources. A generative life also pays attention to what he calls “genesis moments,” the seminal moments of our life, often an experience of pain or failure, that give birth to unexpected and redemptive flourishing.

I am not an artist, but I love the arts and love to learn from artists. Fujimura gives me some fresh language for the vision we’ve long held at Christ Church, a vision to be a generative people, a people of “makers,” a people who are filled with the Spirit of God making creative lives of blessing, making families of joy and strength, making shalom through our vocations, making whole-life disciples, generating new ministries and churches, partnering with God for the making of shalom in the city of Austin.

St. John the Evangelist reports in his Revelation, “. . . he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.” (21:5).

From generation to generation,