Dreaming Through the Difficulty

Every church has a dream buried inside the empty rooms or hallways that connect buildings on the property together. Most established churches have seen years, maybe even decades, of numerical and financial decline. With the onset of decline, the spirit of the people shifted from serving others to saving themselves. Somewhere along the way, the members’ dreams slowly became snuffed out by the reality of the treasurer’s report or number board that counted attendance hanging on the wall. The promise of what was became captured by what reality is today, and instead of faith, fear set in.

If you have served in church leadership for a short period or a long tenure, it is never too late to begin to dream again through the difficulty that the church has gone through in the past. Whatever your local church is facing today is never a reason to stop dreaming and believing that God can do it again and help grow the church. For many in the church today, the spirit of defeatism has taken hold and must be set aside to honor God’s call on the local church and begin to move forward.

Dream What Could Be 

The church God has called you to is remarkable. He has a purpose and a promise to deliver through your ministry if you are willing to help the church dream what could be. Instead of fretting about what the church does not have or what has been lost, see what God sees—empty classrooms to be used as space for programs the community needs. Space creatively repurposed to meet the community’s future needs and to capture a new way of reaching the community by focusing not only on Sunday mornings but every day of the week. 

The average church is underutilizing its property and struggles to fill it on a typical day. Why not dream beyond Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and see what more can be done through buildings, unused space, and property. Begin to dream of partnerships by laying the ground beforehand by agreeing as church members on which space, rooms, or portions of the property can be used for God-ministry opportunities even before you have an agreement from a partner. Having the church leadership, board, and members in agreement before you launch a God-partnership will lessen any misunderstandings in the future. 

God has incredible plans for your local church, but the people must get out of God’s way and allow God to move.

Dream What Is 

After years of decline, your facility might have a lot of deferred maintenance. That is nothing new for a pastoral leader who can see past the worn-out carpets, outdated bathrooms, or parking lot that looks more like a grass meadow than a place to park cars. If your local church wants to move from the difficult and into the dream stage, then as a leader, you must begin to see what God can do with what you have. I have found as a revitalization specialist that many pastors and local churches do not have a plan to reignite the God vision that seemingly vanished from the church grounds. They want to blame former pastors, members, or even the community they want to reach. 

The church must begin to dream of what is, by facing the reality of where they find themselves. If the people or leadership’s viewpoint does not change, no amount of blessing from God will turn the church around unless they fully surrender to God’s will. See the deferred maintenance challenges as God-opportunities to seek wise counsel from others and God to move forward. Do not allow the fear of a dollar sign to overcome God’s plan he has placed inside of you. Begin to dream again by taking on each project individually, ranking them, and chipping away at them. There may be a tendency to be overwhelmed by all that needs to be accomplished; know the church did not decline overnight and will not be restored overnight, but through consistency, things will begin to look up. 

Trust the dream of what is to see what could be through God’s guidance and your leadership.

Dream What Will Be 

As the church has declined, many who remained became quite negative and harmful in assessing buildings, programs, and leaders who have led through the decline. Through their words and actions, they have forestalled any forward progress as they keep building walls where God wants to build a bridge to the dream he has for them. Instead of being caught up in what happened in the past, shift your words to harbor a future outlook of hope and destiny within a turnaround. Dream what will be in the future by projecting a forward-looking outlook that sees past the limitations and turns them over to the limitless God.

Without having a dream of where you want to lead the church, the people will not follow. Without a positive story told through sermons, personal conversations, small group gatherings, and social media posts, the negative will destroy what God can do in the church. God did not make a mistake when he called you to the church you serve today. If God calls you, you must be obedient in helping the people dream of what will be. It will take intentional conversations, prayer times with church members, vision casting, vision retelling when people forget, and a positive God-honoring spirit when the adversary uses good people to throw up roadblocks to stop progress. 

Do not allow the past to dictate your church’s future. Free yourself by dreaming of what can be as you work together to accomplish God’s plans.

While you may be facing a difficult season, do not allow dreams to die because the church is underwhelmed by people and overwhelmed by problems. Begin to dream again and let God guide the church through this difficult season into a season of promise.

Desmond Barrett