Shatter the Wish Dream: Part 1
Shattering The Wish Dream Part 1
"Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…"
- 1 Peter 5:2
Do you have dreams? Dreams about your life, your spouse, your job, your children?
It’s good to dream; to sit and ponder, even fantasize, about what could be.
But there’s often a hidden danger in dreaming about what could be; a malicious spirit of discontentment that can cripple families, empires, and even churches.
In describing this danger as it concerns congregational life, Dietrich Bonhoeffer termed this, “the wish dream.”
So what is the wish dream? For churches, for members, for deacons, for pastors, the wish dream is loving the idea of your church and not the reality of your church.
1 Peter 5:2’s eight word admonition to the elders tells us a few things to keep in mind about the church we’ve found ourselves in.
The Flock is God’s
The first thing Peter teaches us to keep in mind about our church? It’s God’s.
As much as we think about these people/this place being “ours”, it’s good to be reminded, and reminded often, that ultimately it isn’t ours and whatever portion of it belongs to us only belongs to us as a gift.
Why does the church belong to God? Because He paid for it in blood.
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
- Acts 20:28
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
- Revelation 5:9-10
In our wish dreaming about our church, don’t forget Who it belongs to.
But Peter doesn’t just tell us this is God’s flock, he directs our attention to the location of the flock.
And where is the flock? “Among you.”
Well duh Peter, as opposed to where? As opposed to who? What other flock could we possibly love and care for?
Well, rather than shepherding the church we have, our wish dreaming could tempt us to love another imaginary flock instead!
What’s your wish dream church like?
What about the members?
Are they all growing in holiness? Evangelizing and discipling? Attending worship? Attending prayer meetings? Attending...anything? Are they serving without being begged? Are they giving without being guilted? Are they thinking maturely, acting lovely, speaking kindly, and forgiving quickly?
What about the pastors?
Do they hit a homerun every Sunday? Are they as skillful with the greek as they are at the hospital bed?Are they as doctrinally precise as a professor, as powerful as a revivalist, and as engaging as a tv personality? Do they run the church like a well-oiled machine but also treat the members as family?
What about the programs?
Is the children’s ministry polished? Is the youth group fun? When is the next senior’s trip? Is the church running out of leadership opportunities because the amount of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and deacons being raised up is happening so quickly?
What about the worship?
Is anyone there? Do you feel loved when you walk in? Has the room been prepared in prayer? Is the music your type? Too many hymns? Not enough hymns? Does it seem like the heavens open when we sing? Are people comforted, healed, delivered, or encouraged, when we pray? Is the Spirit present in a powerful way? Does a new person join the church or turn to the Lord every week? Is our hot water bill rising due to all the baptisms? Is the Lord worshipped in Spirit and truth?
Warning Against the Wish Dream
These are all wish dreams. And they’re all good ones. It’s my hope for my own life, that when I wish dream about the church, I do it like this, wanting all the Lord is willing to give us for His glory and our joy.
But we cannot forget that this is a dream and to combat the wish dream, to love the church we have and not the one we’d like, we do well to remember Bonhoeffer, who writes in Life Together,
"If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray to God for understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God . . .
What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases."
We all have wish dreams about the church we want. But in all of our wishing, and dreaming, and even praying, we cannot, allow grand visions about what our church could be, prevent us from loving what our church is. We must not allow the wish dream about the flock to prevent us from loving the flock of God that is among us.
Love the flock you have in the present. Love the flock you are becoming. And, like Jesus, love the flock we will become, which will be in the next post.
Until He Comes,