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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Order OR Improvisation

Structure and planning are essential to me. I’m aware of my tendency to want things in order. Perhaps that’s a result of my early years when I had no model of stability.

However, in the kingdom of God living life with only structure and order often encourages dullness. It’s easy to fall into a slumber where we become stagnant and sluggish.

Although structure and order serve to help productivity, without the ability to ad-lib or improvise… passion and vibrancy can quickly diminish.

Jesus frequently confronts the pharisaical inclination to have things in order (i.e., follow the rules and stay within the box) to wake them from spiritual slumber.

Equally, Scripture emphasizes the importance of order.

The design and creation of the universe did not happen without order. God instructed Moses – with precise instructions – how to build the Tabernacle and exactly where to place its furnishings (Ex. 40:4).

To a Spirit-filled church in Corinth, whose exuberance and improvisation were quickly causing confusion and disorder the Apostle Paul admonishes them: “…but all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).

I’m aware that I will always live between the tension of improvisation and order.

On one side I long to be free to improvise and respond “in-the-moment.” There’s something about catching the wind of the Spirit and riding it – leading me to where the Spirit wants to take me.

To be free to improvise helps me re-connect with the reality that the Spirit of God cannot – nor should not – be contained in my structured box. Improvisation encourages my faith and trust that God is always to lead, and I am to follow.

On the other side of the coin, I’m not prepared to abandon structure and order.

These gifts provide needed boundaries, which provide adequate space for improvisation – and to guard our extemporization so that it will never distract others from seeing Jesus.

For my brothers and sisters who lean toward improvisation… THANK YOU! You inspire me to trust and move beyond my structured world. I need you!!

For my sisters and brothers who bless my life because of your orderliness… THANK YOU! You offer me a sense of stability. I need you!!

If we are oriented to order, let’s guard ourselves by embracing improvisation so we will not fall asleep.

If we lean toward improvisation, let’s guard ourselves to ensure that extemporization always magnifies Jesus.

And may each of us welcome the gifts of improvisation AND order!

Praying for each of us!

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