Someone I once met on a mission trip defined insanity as: "Doing things the same way while expecting a different result." What an accurate description of so many churches. We do the same things over and over, expecting that our results will suddenly be different or improved. If we refuse to change methodology and fail to serve Christ in better ways, we will get the same results we are getting now.
In the United States a lower percentage of people claim Christianity as their faith now than they did 10 years ago. And the downward trend continues. If we can't stop this slide, the church will be significantly weaker next year and perhaps more tepid a decade from now.
If a church is to be turned around, pastors must dream God's dream for their situations. Now I love to dream, because dreams create the possibility of new outcomes. Dreams produce hope. A leader who has a dream is inspired by it in perspective and in preaching. Dreams help a church realize they can be more than they ever thought they could be. And when implemented, dreams increase a church's ability to address the world's concerns.
By daring to dream great dreams, miracles are not guaranteed, but it sure does make it interesting. The church is engaged in a spiritual effort and the results depend on the powerful work of the Holy Spirit to change hearts. But it is because the church is a partner with the Spirit that she can expect great things from God. As Paul put it, "That Power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead" Eph 1:19,20. Because Christ lives and has authority over all things for the church, you can never out dream God.
So whenever I have opportunity to speak to layity, either privately or publicly, I urge them to allow their pastor to dream. I challenge them to help make those dreams come true. I push them to realize that dreams are where the future effectiveness of any church starts.
However, when I encourage the laity of the church to allow their pastor to dream, I go home worrying. What if they find out that their pastor has no dreams for the church? Let me be unmistakably clear - if a pastor doesn't dream and share those dreams with God's people, a church will succumb to the status quo, to apathy or to dry up.
Dreams can be hindered by a pastor who will not dare to dream. They can also be hindered by members who refuse to follow the dream. Dreams can be a little scary, and somewhat dangerous. But we cannot spread the gospel of Jesus by marking time. The dreamer acknowledges risks and then says Follow me, as I follow Christ! Then, laying the church's plans before God and requesting His blessing and His indwelling Spirit, that pastor moves out, taking God's people along, to overcome obstacles in the powerful name of Jesus. Dream God's dream for your church and talk about it everywhere.