Dreams point to the future. They become a light that shines in the darkness of the unknown on a path that leads to a new place. For the past several years I have been dreaming of new models of doing church.
About two-thirds of the way into my doctoral studies I hit a level of tired I didn’t know existed. One day it occurred to me that I was no longer dreaming at night. This went on for a period of about a year and a half. A few months after graduation I awoke with the realization I had had a dream during the night. Slowly my sleep pattern normalized and I found that I was dreaming again.
I fear that dreamlessness is the experience of a lot of church leaders. They have become so weary from the exhaustive work of ministry that there is no capacity to dream. That’s a big loss for the church because there’s something very powerful about a captivating dream.
Here are some of my thoughts on how bone-weary church leaders might be able to dream again.
1. Position yourself – my academic pursuit was the main cause of my tiredness but it was temporary and necessary to position myself for something better. Positioning takes effort, often when you feel you have none to give. As much as we crave significance, sometimes a season of obscurity while you work on yourself is the best path forward. There is risk involved because there is no guarantee you will benefit from your investment. However it may come down to a choice between finding the courage and strength to improve your position or feeling hopelessly stuck where you are.
2. Stay engaged – disengagement is one of the first signs of disappointment and discouragement. You end up just going through the motions or bailing out altogether. But remember, it’s difficult to influence change from the outside. People are much more likely to follow your lead when they see you are charging forward in ministry.
3. Be generous – if you make the dream primarily about yourself and what you want, you are setting yourself up for failure. Jesus’ advice clearly applies here; it is in laying down your life for others that you truly find life. Focus on the true needs of those you are called to serve. How can you contribute? How can you make life better for others?
4. Get curious – reawaken your God-given love for adventure. Explore the possibilities. Consider new ways of doing things. Innovation is discovering new combinations of familiar things. How can you do things differently that will restore passion and produce transformation in the lives of those who desperately need hope?
God knew what he was doing when he put you where you are. You can make a difference!
Why not dream of a new model of doing church that is less draining and more life giving?