Dreaming the Church

n03123_dreaming

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Age Group

Adult

Brief Description

Books that attempt to help congregations develop strategies for success are hot picks. Perhaps this is partly because several recent titles make it sound like the church is in trouble: From Stuck to Unstuck: Overcoming Congregational Impasse, The Trouble with the Church, and–(how’s this for a catchy title?)–The Enemy in the Pew. Many books on church leadership promise “real help for pastors and other church planners who need to understand congregations and all the factors that make them what they are.” Considering all this, consumers could easily get the idea that the hope of the Church lies in nothing more than streamlined organization, decisive committees, and holistic structures.

Luke addresses Theophilus regarding the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts (Lk 1:3, Acts 1:1). Although some scholars have debated that Theophilus represents every “Lover of God,” there is actually little reason to doubt that he was a real person. Theophilus was probably a new Christian, struggling to learn exactly what implications that had for his life, so Luke attempted to show him the way by painting a vivid picture of the early Church. Luke’s portrait is not of a perfect congregation, but a holy one nevertheless.

This unit portrays the early Church as our guide to “Dreaming the Church” of today. Our local congregations would do well to emulate those of the early Church: devoted to God, enjoying each other’s company, breaking bread together, praying for one another, joyfully giving thanks, and living in the fresh wind of the Spirit.

Unfortunately, we sometimes tend to act as if the Church was our idea; the early Church, on the other hand, knew that it was no one else’s but God’s. Our churches often make the mistake of measuring success by the world’s standards, but the early Church defined itself by a much different set of loyalties. We often live isolated from one another in our individual churches; the early church, however, made a deliberate choice to share their lives. Contemporary churches frequently are guilty of pretense and appearance, but the early Church learned to tell the truth. But perhaps most important, sometimes we focus on our local churches as institutions; by contrast, the early Church knew that God called them to be part of an ancient story and a holy people.

by Brett Younger

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