There is a rather large poster that sits in my office directly across from my desk. It reads: “Once An Organization Has Lost It’s Ability To Dream… Death Will Soon Follow.” I literally read this statement very nearly every day of my life. It haunts me, honestly.
As the pastor of a 130 year-old congregation in an historic mainline denomination (Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.), I know a little something of dying organizations that have lost the ability to dream. A quick look at the membership, worship attendance and giving statistics for most churches in the PC(USA) reveals that “dreaming dreams” is fairly low on their list of priorities.
I recently re-read portions of a book that was required in a class I took as an undergraduate at Florida State University called, “Critical Issues In Literary Study.” The fact that I still remember the name of this class should tell you something about the impact it had on the way I think. The book I re-read was Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities.” Anderson had this notion that real communities can be formed without face-to-face interaction when people begin to imagine or perceive themselves as part of a group.
Anderson was a prophet and he didn’t even know it. The rise of social media has dramatically demonstrated that he was completely on point. But since my context happens to be as a pastor of a local church, I read Anderson’s work with particular interest in the way it applies to a congregation that begins to dream and imagine itself as a catalyst within the emerging kingdom of God.
Far too many church leaders seem to be completely focused on finding ways to regain relevance, add members or find a way to “attract young people” simply to stave off what seems to be the inevitable demise of their congregations.
Instead, maybe what they need to do is connect church members with the bigger story of the Gospel. Perhaps the very life they seek is an imagined one – a life that is defined by the great dreams of the kingdom of God. There is something compelling about an “imagining community,” that isn’t afraid to dream big, act boldly and chase after Jesus with reckless abandon.
Leon Bloder is a preacher, a poet, a would-be writer, a husband, a father, a son, a dreamer, a sinner, a pastor, a fellow-traveler and a failed artist. He is talentless, but well-connected. He stumbles after Jesus, but hopes beyond hope that he is stumbling in the right direction. Leon has been married to Merideth for 22 years, is the father of three awesome boys, and serves in ministry at the First Presbyterian Church of Eustis in Eustis, Florida. Visit his website.