Published on Fuller Seminary’s Burner Blog for Pastors and Leaders.
Read the Article here
by Marcus J. Carlson
dream. As I look back on my experience with the church, the churches I have served, attended, partnered with, assisted, consulted or even known, I noticed something. It was not until recently in the midst of our vision process at the church I currently serve that I was able to put it together. The church in the United States for the most part has lost or let go of the ability to dream. Whether because of comfort, crisis, fear, lack of vision, or some other challenge, so many churches have stopped dreaming. In fact, some may have even forgotten how to dream. Whether we lack hope, don’t believe in our ability to make a dream happen, have failed to trust God or a combination of the above, we have let go of dreaming. Proverbs reminds us that without vision the people will perish. Without vision, our churches will eventually die. Whether in 5 years or 50, without vision we face death.
It is easy to assume that many of the churches that are growing and thriving are doing so because of a particular pastor or staff member, their resources, their worship style, facilities, technology or some other reason. Sure people love large churches for a variety of reasons: the ministries and opportunities they provide, our love for the big and successful, or even the anonymity that comes with large churches. With very few exceptions, I have yet to find successful, growing (and I am not talking solely about numerical growth) churches that do not have a vision and that are not dreaming. In fact, in speaking to the leaders of these churches and movements, they almost always point to vision first and the other stuff if it comes up is clearly peripheral. Again, there are some exceptions, but I find that so many churches try to compete and compare and in the midst of their fear of death and jealousy of the success of a larger church, they are not dreaming, they do not have nor are they looking for a vision. I am thankful to be a part of a church that really wants to find and live out a vision, even if we are all not sure what that will mean or what it will look like.
Like many pastors and leaders, as much as I want to avoid leading out of personality, the reality is that sometimes I do not realize that is what I am doing. I am always dreaming, always hoping, always desiring greater growth as a Christ-follower, husband, father, pastor and human being. Sure, I can be cynical at times, and I can certainly grow in my trust of God with my dreams, but I cannot help but to look for, advocate for and seek to live out dreams and visions in my own life, my family and the church. When I think about the proverb that reminds us that we will parish without vision, I realize that the meaning behind that verse is much deeper and multi-faceted than I realize. Without dreaming and vision, we cannot move forward and cannot grow. Without vision, we get stuck in routine, grow complacent and cynical and often compromise. We are energized, encouraged and hopeful in the midst of vision and dreaming. Recently in my church and in Lutheran churches around the world, we stopped to celebrate the reformation. As we celebrate the way in which God changed the church 496 years ago through Martin Luther, we must also be reminded that we are called to continual, Christ-centered reformation as individuals and as a church. Dreaming (and vision) gives us (and our churches) energy, renewed passion and joy. It is in the midst of vision and dreams that we are forced to listen to, rely on, and trust God. Without vision the church will perish. It is time for the church to move beyond comfort, combat with culture and fear and begin to dream again.