Part of the Pentecost story in Acts is the prophecies, visions, and dreams that followers of Jesus are given when the Holy Spirit comes to them. It is actually Peter, quoting the prophet Joel, who makes the allusion.
The followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit empowered them to dream.
We all dream. We all envision a future for ourselves, our families, our congregations, our communities. We know what it means to desire a different future, a better future.
But how do I know the difference between a dream that comes from the Holy Spirit and a dream that comes from within myself? How can I tell if it is God or my ego creating this picture of the future in my mind?
I mean, I could have a dream of myself driving a brand new, silver, Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet with the top down and U2 blasting out of the speakers, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t come from God. But obviously not all of my dreams would be so easy to distinguish.
I have a different vision for the church than some do. And I actually think that having multiple congregational visions is healthy for the church as a whole. When it comes to congregational vitality, “one-size-fits-all” is not a good rule to follow. And I do not begrudge one person their dream for the future of the church, as long as it is not harmful.
What are our dreams for the church?
- Bigger congregations
- Smaller congregations but more of them
- More small groups within larger congregations
- Networks of simple churches meeting in living rooms
- New congregations emerging from within older congregations
- Younger congregations
- Multi-generational congregations
- Ginormous congregations with multiple locations
- Congregations without locations that gather as flash mobs in various public places
- The complete dissolution of the notion of a “congregation” and creation of a new connectional concept of church, networked somewhere in the cloud
There’s nothing wrong with multiple dreams within the church. I’d say the only thing wrong is no dream for the future, no vision, no motion forward.
Last night at rehearsal, an actor noted that in one particular scene different people in the chorus were making different choices about our respective reactions to the action on stage. The actor asked if the director wanted one uniform response from the chorus. She replied that no, the multiple reactions actually created interest and energy. The only thing that would be “wrong” is if there was no reaction at all.
It’s like that with vision for the church, too. The vision in one congregation is different from the vision in another congregation, and that’s okay as long as it first of all does no harm. What would not be okay is if a congregation claims no vision at all. The Pentecost story is all about the Holy Spirit sending prophecies, visions, and dreams to followers of Jesus, and I believe that the Holy Spirit continues to do so today.