“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” Joel 2:28 (NRSV)
I’ve been quite fascinated with dreams and their meanings over the course of my life. Somehow I think our subconscious lets us know how we are really feeling deep inside through what we dream. For example, nearly every year in January or February, I begin having nightmares about someone hiding in the shadows and watching me. It’s all very mysterious, and instead of feeling curious, I become afraid. My husband says I start hollering in my sleep. Well, the logical explanation for me is that January is when the United Methodist Church Bishop and Cabinet (all the District Superintendents) get together to start planning appointments. That means I could be moved to another church situation. The one year I felt safe (ha, ha) and hadn’t had any nightmares was the year I felt comfortable (another ha, ha). It was the year I received the call to move to my present appointment.
I recognize the shadowy figure as the unknown possibility of being moved, and I know my fear is that I will actually get a call to move. Now that I am about four years away from retirement, moving seems like a huge undertaking, especially since the two churches I serve are beginning to show some wonderful ministry. We have had stability over these past five and a half years, and I would hate to see that be disrupted for any of us by my being moved. I recognize that I’m not the ONLY pastor who can be with these churches, but I also believe that stability is important for the folks in the congregations to be able to keep moving forward with spiritual growth, missional growth, and being effective in their communities.
So, I pay attention to my dreams, even when they don’t make sense. I try to find any kernel of concern or joy that is there so I can learn from them. And I think it is one way God speaks to me to help me in my work and life as a continue this journey. Yet, there is a definite difference between visions and dreams. I suppose most of us think of visions as the appearance of an angel or some heavenly being to get our attention, but I’m not really thinking about those kinds of visions.
The vision I’m talking about is what God gives us for our future. It’s more than just setting goals, it’s a directive from God to help us be most effective in our ministry with other as well as each other. Many churches simply don’t have a vision. When asked where they want to be in five years, they have no clue or they say they want to stay the way they are now.
Having a vision is a way to take what we already have an build upon it. It’s an active way of having a dream for the church. Many times, our awake dreams are just that – a distance hope that will never develop. A vision, on the other hand, is a hope in which we are involved in making it happen. I think they can go hand in hand, but nothing will be accomplished if we don’t participate in the planning, the following, and the implementing of ways to be part of the vision God has given us.
So when Joel promises the people of Israel that everyone will be included in the visioning (verse 29 includes even the male and female slaves), it is a promise from God. Everyone counts in the family of God and everyone is part of making the church do what it does best according to the gifts and talents and calling of that church congregation.
What are your vision and hope for your church? Have a blessed day.