Everybody needs a dream. Whenever you first got involved in ministry, you probably started with a big dream. Unfortunately, as you get into that ministry, your dreams shrink to the size of the situation. Probably the very first time you got involved in ministry you could foresee great things. Yet as we go on, circumstances tend to shrink our dreams.
If youre going to be involved in ministry, youve got to be a dreamer. Youve got to have faith in what God can do through your ministry. The Bible says, Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6 NIV) Faith begins with catching a dream, a vision.
When I started Saddleback, I started with a dream. In fact, the very first Saddleback trial service I shared that dream with the 60 people in the room. I shared a bold dream that day a dream of a church of 20,000 people ministering in Orange County and around the world, a dream of a campus that would be a refuge for the hurting, depressed, frustrated, and confused in our community, and the dream of sharing the Good News with hundreds of thousands of people.
When I stood up and shared that with 60 people who Id never seen before in my life, there were people who said, Fat chance! How in the world will 60 people grow to be a church of that size? How are we ever going to get land in the Saddleback Valley at the price that it costs? Yet 27 years later, weve reached those goals. In the years Ive pastored this church, I never doubted that we would. Not once. I didnt know when it would happen but I knew it would. Why? That dream was from God.
Then, in April of 2005, at Saddlebacks 25th anniversary, I shared a new dream for Saddleback Church and the growing Purpose Driven Network of churches. I told those gathered of the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, my dream for mobilizing a billion Christians to tackle the global giants of spiritual lostness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy. The first dream carried Saddleback for the first 25 years; this one will carry it for the next 25. Im just as sure about the new dream as I was the first one.
Every person, every ministry, and every church needs a dream. If youre not dreaming, youre dying. I dont believe theres any such thing as a great person. I believe there are only ordinary people committed to great dreams. When an ordinary person is committed to a great dream, it makes that person a great person. If you want to be healthy, youve got to have a dream to live for.
Maybe youve been in ministry for so long that youve forgotten how to dream. Or maybe youre just stepping into ministry and youve never spent the time contemplating what God might want to do through your life. Or maybe youre somewhere in between. Regardless, here are eight steps to help you find Gods dream for your life. They are the same steps I went through in developing Gods dream for Saddleback.
1. Open your mind to God.
If youre going to do this, youve got to be quiet before the Lord. Schedule times of silence, of solitude. For many of you, God cant give you a dream because you wont sit down and shut up! You just need to be quiet before him. You start by getting Gods perspective on your life.
2. Do some research.
You dont make decisions out of ignorance. This is a step that many people ignore when they get a dream. They pray about it but then dont go out and get any facts. The Bible says that its dumb just to step out. (See Pr. 18:13) Think before you act. Read books, go to conferences, visit other churches but get the facts.
3. Start asking for advice.
Remember, its better to admit your ignorance than to prove it by your experience. Youre going to appear foolish anyway if you dont get the right advice. So go ahead and ask. Humble yourself. Be teachable. Leaders are learners.
4. Establish some priorities.
You dont have time to do everything, so you have to learn the difference between the important and the urgent, the helpful and the life-changing, and being efficient and being effective. Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. You need to focus on doing the right things. When you do this, youre developing a plan to achieve your dreams and thats essential.
5. Evaluate the cost.
This is whats called a calculated risk. Proverbs 20:25 says, Its a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later consider his vows. (NIV) You need to ask yourself three questions when youre planning out a dream:
Is it necessary? (Can I reach my goal another way?)
What will it cost? (Whats the price tag in terms of time, energy, money, and reputation?)
Is it worth it? (Thats the most important question.)
After Id gotten a dream for Saddleback Church, I then had to ask myself the question, Is this worth my life? And I came to the conclusion, Absolutely! Its worth every ounce of energy I can give it. Were talking about eternal matters here.
6. Plan for problems.
Your plan needs to account for problems. Things are going to go wrong. Are you ready when they do? Proverbs 22:3 says, A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences. (TLB) Ask yourself, What can go wrong with this dream? And What will happen if it does? Thats not being pessimistic. The Bible says thats just being sensible.
7. Be willing to risk. Face your fears.
Most people wont take ministry risks because they dont want to face their fears. Proverbs 29:25 says, Fear of man is a dangerous trap, but to trust in God means safety. (TLB) We hate to admit it when were afraid. God says to go ahead and admit it. Fear is not a sign of weakness; its a sign of humanity.
But the secret to stepping beyond your fears know who gave you the dream. Proverbs 14:26 says, Reverence for the Lord gives confidence and security. When you know your dream is from God, it gives you confidence. It gives you the security to keep on moving toward it. If you know where your dream comes from, you wont care what the critics say. You wont let people tell you why it cant happen. Laws can be changed. Money can be raised. What matters is that God has said to do it.
8. Do it now.
There comes a point of decision where youve got to stop talking and start acting. Youve got to begin. Once youve decided its worth the risk, you need to go for it. Theres got to come a point in your life when you say, Gods called me to do this. Im going for it.
It doesnt cost anything to dream. Dream big dreams for your ministry. Everything that is possible now in our society was impossible at one point: cars, computers, planes, microwave ovens, the Internet. Todays impossibilities are tomorrows miracles.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.