The Dream Church, or Not!
by Dr. Charles Killian, Asbury Theological Seminary, EXL Faculty, and class of 1963, BD
He was looking for a church. He said he had heard about our church and wanted to check us out. I gave some silly, inane answer like, “You have come to the right place, welcome.” Those kinds of visitors are refreshing and challenging. They are on a quest—one that would fit their worship plan, and certainly their theological stance. And I am certain that the preaching they wanted to hear would be “straight out of the Bible.” You see, I have encountered the whole range over the years. Well, after the service, I expressed my delight that he came and worshiped with us, and invited him back. I couldn’t help myself—I had to say it, “We just might be the church you are looking for.” As we shook hands, he departed with one last thought, “I will let you know.” I was certain I had seen the last of him.
It is amazing how a trivial conversation can end up being full of explosives. The next day I got an email from him in which he gave me his “12-Step Manifesto” for the church he was hoping to find.
1. I dream of a church that is more interested in repentance than recruitment.
2. I dream of a church that is more concerned with the health of its body than the size of its attendance.
3. I dream of a church that will become less and less turf conscious.
4. I dream of leaders who are willing to risk and sacrifice to reach our community with the gospel, because, like Jeremiah, they have their hearts broken by the sins of the world.
5. I dream of Christians in the congregation who are determined to be truthful but yet peacemakers, not tolerating contention and disunity.
6. I dream of a revival among young people. I dream of teenagers who will see that a call to full-time Christian service is as significant as any vocation in the world.
7. I dream of racial unity. God will not bless this nation spiritually until we can love each other sincerely as sisters and brothers in Christ.
8. I dream of a greater church of Jesus Christ that, although being part of this world, will not be like the world.
9. I dream of a church that will take a stand for morality and righteousness, confront injustice, and battle for the souls of our children and grandchildren.
10. I dream of a church that will not surrender future generations to any humanistic culture that seeks to snare them.
11. I dream of a church that is committed to moving forward. Churches have the tendency to develop a ‘maintenance’ posture, dealing only with their problems rather than opportunities. I will not settle for the status quo.
12. I dream of a church that will pioneer new areas, take creative leaps of faith, and not be bound by the problems of the past.
I read it over several times—I could find no fault with any of it. It was one of those ‘convicting moments’ that mock our piety and that come all too often when we pastors ‘preen and posture’. I sat with the memo for several days and finally gave an answer to his ‘I have a dream manifesto’. I told him that I would like to belong to a church like that, too. In fact, I told him that I would like to ‘live out that manifesto’ in my own ministry.
I never saw him again. Often wondered if he were for real? Could it have been a dream…a figment of my imagination…something out of my own subconscious? I don’t know, but I have been haunted by that ‘moment’. And for whatever time is remaining, I pledge and pray to God that ALL that I do, say, or think for the Kingdom of Christ will be evidenced by a “12-step program” that will lift me up out of my addiction to mediocrity. Blessed be God!