Beyond Wishing to Dreaming

A message I preached to my leadership class.

There is a difference between a dream and a wish.

I’m using wish in the genie in the bottle sense.  You’re given the opportunity to ask for something and then you just speak it.  Dream is being used in the sense of “aspiration, goal, aim.”  If it is a dream, it should consume us.  It’s what we are working for.  It really becomes the reason for our existence.
    For small business owners, the success of their business is usually their dream.
    For parents, raising their children well is usually their dream.

Now last year, we started praying for our church to be 100 people in size and that people would stop attacking us.  The last one seemed to be answered despite my thinking that it would not be possible.  But on growing to 100, I think we wished it rather than dreamed it.  What would make me say that?
    A dream consumes us. A wish doesn’t change us.
    A dream leads us to action.  A wish is just words.

And the stark truth is that I really haven’t seen much changes in people’s personal ministries outside the gatherings since then; actually, I think I have seen a decrease.  I’ve seen an increase in “it’s the minister’s job” mentality. 

So what would our lives be like if that was a dream we shared?

Tiger Woods said in his apology on Friday:  “Elin and I have started the process of discussing the damage caused by my behavior. As she pointed out to me, my real apology to her will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time.”  You’ve heard the phrase, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  That’s Elin’s approach to Tiger’s reformation.  And I think that is the way God sees our dreams; we show him our dreams by what we wrestle over in our mind and eventually go after.  Because if we really dreamed what we, in our churchy moments, give lip service to as our dream, then we would be living our lives differently.  The life we lead gives us the church we are living for.  A dream engulfs us; a wish can leave us unchanged.  Let’s make wanting to be a church of 100 a dream rather than a wish.

In two separate conversations this week, I encountered what seemed to be anti “the church being used for evangelism” slants from people in this church.  The thought is that we have to win them to the Lord completely outside of this building.  Where does that idea come from?  I would argue that it is unhealthy and needs to be purged from our thinking.  The church is only a community of believers under the Lordship of Jesus.  Our first and last goal in our mission statement is to be a community.  God established a kingdom, which implies people in relationship with one another rather than just people in relationship with God.  Our life together should be something that helps our church grow, and our church typically gathers inside this building.  I understand that ministry starts outside of this church, but our Sunday morning gathering is one that I hope could be used by each of us as a tool to minister to the lost.  We should readily, and weekly, be inviting people to our gathering.  It’s not that hard.  Friends invite people over to parties, and every week, church should be a party.  An invitation is a good thing; not being invited is a bad thing.  It hurts feelings to not be invited to a party.  Being invited, even if the person does not want to come, is never offensive.  We need to be inviting people to our weekly, Sunday morning party.  If coming and worshiping God is not exciting for us, then I think we’re lost.     

When I was lost and I started to feel that God was pursuing me, I was being invited to church, other worship gatherings, and bible studies.  I remember being moved, brought to tears, and having my heart worked on during those times.  Our gathering needs to be used by us to minister to people.  If not, we should just stop it and take communion during Sunday School because we are just wasting a lot of time. 

If our evangelism does not lead us to asking them to our gathering, it tells me one of two things – either we don’t believe our gathering is that worthwhile.  If that’s the case, we need to make improvements.  Or it tells me that we really still cling to that good old American individualistic Christianity and don’t believe in the value of community.  Those are two ideas we have to destroy.  We need to make sure our church gathering is culturally relevant and we need to bury the idea that Christianity is not about community. 

This church has developed a culture of not evangelizing over the years.  It’s ingrained deeply.  The style of our Sunday Morning Gathering was a sign of that deeper problem.  The way we worshipped in that gathering was culturally irrelevant to those living in this community around us who did not know Jesus.  It was even hostile to some believers, yet alone non-believers.  And so we started to develop thoughts and convinced ourselves that the one hour we gather to sing songs, listen to a sermon, and share in communion was not something for the lost.  That thought can only develop in a church that is worshipping in a culturally irrelevant way.  It can only come about in a church that has not seen the power of God transform life after life during the time in which people take that step to seek him during the gathering.  That one hour on Sunday morning is the time that visitors are most likely to check us out and get an impression of God; it’s most often the time that a hurt person is going to come and seek God.  It’s not our time; it’s God’s time.

The church should be about evangelizing.  That means each individual member in their daily lives needs to be reaching out to the lost to show them God’s love.  And the gathering needs to be something that is culturally welcoming to all and is only hostile in the demands that Jesus makes on their lives.  I think I’m pretty kingdom-minded when I try to evangelize.  If I think a person will fit better in another church or they are already plugged into another church, I don’t make them feel guilty for not coming here.  But if I consistently don’t believe our church would be a good church for people to get plugged into, then we need to change.  I’ve heard that our lack of growth might be God preparing us for further growth.  That means we need to be changing.  If we aren’t, then we are not making use of this time to prepare ourselves for future growth.

The only way our church will grow is if growing God’s kingdom is the dream of each one of us.  Not a wish.  It has to consume us, not just be one area of our life that we pursue.  Now, I don’t expect, although I hope, everyone in the church to be consumed with showing God’s love and bringing people to the Lord, but I expect our leaders to.  And you’re a leader.  I don’t care how long you have been at this church.  You’re willing to get around early on a Sunday morning, read through a book for this discussion, and take the time to come.  That shows me you show a level of commitment that others don’t.  I consider you fellow leaders. 

I try to not preach theologically deep sermons during our Sunday morning gathering; I try to preach relevant sermons to everyday life.  Our whole redesign for what we do on Sunday morning has been done because we want it to be accessible to people who do not yet follow Jesus because that hour is typically when they will come and check us out and maybe even make a decision on whether to follow God or not.  That hour is no longer for the churched.  So when I hear that somebody would like to have more hymns during the Sunday morning gathering, I realize that I have failed to communicate the vision of the Sunday morning gathering well.  That time is not for us.  It’s for us to use in our ministry to others.  If we don’t have people sitting in those pews who need to hear those sermons, then we are wasting our time because none of us in this room need to listen to another sermon.  And each one of you is responsible to minister and get people in those pews.  We need to be living sermons.