At Shepherd of the Hills Church, it’s been a long time since the cries of children interrupted worship. That’s okay with this aging congregation. Although they miss younger people, they appreciate less commotion. If only they could get some responsible families, they’re sure things would look up. They want the pastor to recruit them. But he’s gotten busy lately, bogged down in church meetings that seem to go nowhere. This congregation has tried to start a “Bring a Friend to Worship” Sunday. But newcomers get scared off by the appeals to give, and the red ink in the bulletin. Meanwhile the pews thin out, and a steady stream of funerals keep the pastor hopping. Worship used to include several unknown faces. Not anymore, but at least now everyone knows each other. Lots of time to pray for each other, and to keep the love flowing.

On the surface, this church sounds pretty normal. But dig down a bit and you’ll find a church with no dream other than to survive. How does a church like this create a shift in its culture?

First, let’s take a look at what happens in churches like this.  They develop a bevy of problems like the following eight:

  • shrinking numbers
  • problem people
  • stagnant giving
  • listless worship
  • gutless prayer
  • bait and switch evangelism
  • insulated focus
  • dead-end decision-making

In my work with congregations through Creating a Culture of Renewal, I have noticed that these eight distinct problems are reliable indicators of a church operating without a vision. I believe there is a strong connection between the two.

Vision is key to creating a shift in the culture.  The vision has to be bigger than a church improvement plan, though.  Otherwise, you are back to square one.  You’ll be managing decline rather than creating a sustainable shift in culture.  That requires the courage to Dream like Jesus®.

Here are the four steps a congregation must DARE to undertake:

  1. Dare to have a God-sized DREAM. Jesus dreamed that earth would be a reflection of heaven.
  2. Dare to ALIGN others to the dream. Start with the people around you.  Jesus did. The fishermen, tax collectors, and other people he got on board didn’t have special credentials.  They did however, believe in his big dream.
  3. Dare to REALIZE the dream. Bringing the dream to fruition takes courage. You’ll encounter some road blocks and obstacles, yes.  And, you’ll also encounter people ready to get on board with an energizing dream that makes a true difference.  Jesus and his friends made a huge impact through their healings, feedings, proclamations, and conversations.
  4. Dare to EXPAND out into your community. Your community is eager for you to engage them with love, courage, and creativity.  They long for the Kingdom, even if they don’t put that in words.

The time to dream like Jesus is now.  In my experience, the longer you wait to address the eight dynamics of decline, the more embedded they’ll become and the harder they’ll be to dislodge. Culture shift will be almost impossible.  On the other hand, the sooner you engage a God-size dream, the more hope there is for you and your community! Ready to learn how? Register for the online workshop DARE to Dream Like Jesus® now.

The above blog is excerpted and adapted from Dream Like Jesus:  Deepen Your Faith and Bring the Impossible to Life, © 2019, Rebekah Simon-Peter.