Feb 2, 2011
neil

Unless we dream big…

Dreaming big for God

Expect great things from God attempt great things for God so said William Carey the founder of the modern missionary movement.

I guess like me you find the quote inspiring but what does such trust in God along with such godly ambition begin to look like in your life and in mine?

In a book I’m reading called Exponential, Dave and Jon Ferguson, lead Pastors of Commnuity Church, Naperville, Iiinois made some very helpful observations of the need to dream big and how big dreams begin to change things not least your own life:

I have found that when you dream big, it changes how you think, how you act, and it can even change those around you.

Not least because ‘allowing your heart and mind to pursue a vision that is bigger than you can handle will change you in some very significant ways.’

1. Big dreams change your questions

The bigger your dream, the more you challenge and stretch your mind with tough questions. The size of your dream will often determine the types of questions you ask. Small dreams that are within your grasp and easily managed require one set of questions. Big dreams lead you to ask an entirely different set of questions, questions you would probably never ask otherwise.

At City Church Birmingham we’ve asked the question ‘how can we plant a daughter church?’ now we’re asking  a different kind of question ‘how can we see 20 churches planted by the year 2020?’ Only when we started to ask that question did we realise that the only way we could ever see that happen was through seeking working partnerships with other church-planting churches in the city of Birmingham, churches we hardly new and churches of whom we had previously felt no real need to connect with. All because our ambitions were too small.

2. Big dreams change your prayers

Big questions also force you to ask questions to which you do not know the answer. When you have questions and you don’t know how to answer them, who do you turn to? God! Big dreams force us to ask the types of questions that lead to greater dependence on God.

As we start to form new partnerships in the city we pray that God would protect our unity. As we look at church-planting with no resources to fund or

© Helen Ogbourn

support planting so we pray that God would provide. As we ask questions of strategy such as ‘how do we reach a city of a million?’, ‘how do we practically work together?’ so we find perhaps more than ever we need wisdom from God and so we ask him knowing that he gives generously (James 1:3).

3. Big dreams change others

Big dreams are also contagious. They are infectious. They not only change you, but they can also slowly begin to change your friends and those around you!

We’re thrilled to find that in the first year of running the ‘2020 Planters Programme’ that six church-planters, all committed to planting in the city, are gathering to meet every couple of weeks, pray for one another, share ideas, vision and resources.  As we listen to each other, share and pray so we are inspired and urged on in the task. It all seems so much more possible at the end of a Wednesday morning than it did at the start.

4. Big dreams change you

As our dreams get bigger, our doubts will inevitably grow.

That’s certainly been my experience too. The bigger the dream the more you are constantly reminded that it is beyond your ability to deliver it. Wherever there is faith doubt will be right there along side.

At present we are planning a second conference for 2020 birmingham this time the conference will be jointly hosted by Acts29 Western Europe (5-6th May).  Mark Driscoll will be speaking and 2020 will have an opportunity to share something of the vision we believe God has given us for this city.  As the conference approaches so we feel ever more unworthy because of our sin, unable because of the size of the task and unprepared to answer the questions raised by the task before us. But each times those feelings rise there is a fresh opportunity for faith to grow as we remember that we only attempt great things for God because we expect great things from God.

So what stops us dreaming big dreams?

I find that there are two common fears that keep us and our churches from taking risks for the sake of mission. The first is our fear of failure. We say to ourselves. ‘I’m afraid it just won’t work…and I can’t accept the possibility of failure.’ The second fear that keeps us from taking risks is closely related – it’s the fear of loss. We work for years to build a large church or successful career, and our ‘success’ can become the very thing that gets in the way of our taking more significant risks. We tell ourselves, ‘I’ve accomplished too much to lose it all.’ If it is a fear of failure or loss that is holding you back, let me remind you of the grace of God. Walking faithfully in obedience to God is what matters, not your success or failure in the eyes of the world.

The challenge

When it comes to taking risks, the important question you need to ask is when was the last time you took a risk and trusted God? When was the last time your courageously followed Jesus  and did something that was clearly beyond your own abilities? When was the last time you followed Jesus so closely that it was uncomfortable, maybe even a bit scary?

What might this mean for you?

Dave Harvey author of Resucing Ambition wants us to keep asking this question:

What is the Spirit-constrained ambition that God wants us to indulge for his glory right where we are?

And we could also ask:

  • Is there a ministry opportunity I’ve simply been too scared to take?
  • What is stopping me from going for it? Is it fear of failure? Fear of loss?
  • Who can I talk and pray through this dream with?
  • Who can help me shape and realise this dream?
  • How deliberate I have been in praying for guidance or in asking God to enable this dream?
  • Am I being held back by small ambitions that must give way to something out of my reach?

We carry the same gospel Paul carried, and it requires us to have a similar ambition – Dave Harvey

2 Comments

  • Hi Neil,

    Very good post. I recently read Sun, Stand Still by Steve Furtick, on the power of big prayers. Very motivating for prayer life.

    I also liked C.S. Lewis’s good, rational explanation of ambition–sorting out the desire to excel at what you do, from mere competitiveness which is stressful–in your previous post.
    Blessings,
    Anita

  • Neil,

    Thanks so much for your encouraging and challenging words. It is perfect timing for me and my husband as we are praying about a radical change in ministry directions … taking God at His word and stepping out in faith.

    Appreciate your blog very much!

    Nikki

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