Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Advice to Young Leaders #3 of 10 - Tricky Big Dreams

Advice #3 - Big Dreams are a Tricky Thing

I am a dreamer. I love to imagine what could be. I'm almost always involved in a few projects or ideas that could blow up into something unprecedented. I'm wired to go for big things. What's the point of all this otherwise, right?

But I am also a realist. (Some might say I am a pessimist, but I don' t see it that way.) Most people's big dreams simply don't happen. For every Kobe Bryant or Tiger Woods there are a million people who wanted their dream just as bad and ended up flipping burgers or selling used cars. (Plus those guys have had some pretty dark areas of life to wander through themselves. Achieving your dreams normally has nothing to do with the core issues of life. Not to pile on those guys, but we see it time and time again with our heros.)

So I live in this tension. I believe in dreaming big...and I also believe that, through no fault of my own, my big dreams may not be realized. This is enough tension to deal with on its own. Then you mix in all the faith stuff and it gets even more confusing. You may say, "but my big dreams are God-sized dreams or God-given dreams." That may be true. I fully believe that God gives us dreams that are otherwise impossible to attain apart from his intervention. I also believe that he sometimes gives us those dreams knowing that they will not become a reality. Here's a hunch I have that I can't even misappropriate a Bible verse to prove: God uses your dreams to get you to places where you would not otherwise go, but most of the time he isn't all that concerned about the dream itself.

Follow my own story:

Age 22: I had the dream of starting a church for my generation that would attract seekers and grow huge - influencing the entire world for the gospel. That's a God-sized dream for sure. And I believe it was God-given as well. It also had a ton of youthful ego and naivete worked into it. That dream lead me to Las Vegas. It started to become a reality...but before I knew it God changed my big dream.

Age 27: I started to question "church" as I knew it. I rejected the attraction model that was actually working quite well and went toward an ecclesiology that was more relational and organic. My new big dream was to see a simple church (a group of people on a mission who love God and each other) within walking distance of every person in America, starting with Las Vegas. This dream felt more real than the first one. It felt more humble in some ways - more about God and less about me. And as I pursued it, it began to happen in small ways until I decided to leave vocational ministry. I saw the very fact that I was getting paid by the church as a hindrance to the vision becoming a reality. So I quit for the sake of the dream.

Age 29: By my 30th birthday I had lost my life savings, my job and some friends. It wasn't a great time. But through a strange series of events I had a new big dream. I wanted to become a legitimate professional actor and screenwriter in Hollywood while still pursuing the dream detailed above (at age 27). And, then again, it started to happen...I worked for nearly three years in Las Vegas as a professional actor. My family moved to LA and I pursued my dream with all I had. God seemed to be in it. "Finally," I thought...he was going to make sense of it all.

Age 34: Then I was ambushed by a curveball dream. I was suddenly face to face with a new/old dream that had resurrected itself in a new way. I began secretly dreaming about being a pastor again. How would I do it differently? What sort of church could I help to lead that wouldn't drive me totally crazy and vice versa? And then in a matter of two months I was called to move back to Cincinnati and work with The Vineyard. Compared to the other incidents that seemed to meander over years, this one was a violent shocking change - beautifully scary and obviously divine. God gave me the dream of loving a church again and being rooted in a community. He also gave me the dream of creating a mosaic of my past dreams - what if I could do a little bit of everything all at once? That's where I am today - pastoring, leading a church, launching simple churches, acting, writing, producing. I'm in the middle of living my latest dream. But it isn't at all the dream I had at first (or at second or at third)....and I cannot say it will be the last dream I will ever have. I will say that if I had never had the any of previous dreams there is no way that I would have had ears to hear God's calling to VCC. It is all connected. It is how God has made me who am and brought me to where I am.

I have big dreams these days too. I want to see the Vineyard grow deeper and wider. I want to see our artists at VCC make movies that will stand alone in the film industry and change the landscape of American culture. I want to live in a Cincinnati that is no longer carrying the curse of "Rust Belt," but has a new forward-looking identity. I dream big, huge unimaginable things for my church and my city. I believe my dreams are God-sized and God-given. And I know full well that in ten years I might be a ranch hand in Idaho. God will do what he wants. He will use my dreams to direct me where he wants me to be.

So this particular bit of advice is rather oxymoronic: Dream huge God-shaped dreams, but be prepared to accept that they may not be realized. God cares more about you and your city than he does your dreams. But he cares about your dreams because he cares about you. Hold your big dreams loosely, but don't let them go. Love them, but not too much. Know them down to the slightest detail, but be willing to trade them in a nanosecond when God says, "It's time to move on."

My next post in this series will deal with the gospel. I preached the wrong gospel for the first five years of my ministry. I'd hate for you to make the same mistake.


Bailey said...

Pretty soon you will be quoting Master Yoda when he said, "Learn to let go of that which you fear to lose." Yoda had part of it right at least. If you aren't afraid of losing your dreams, you won't be devastated if they change or never come to be. Our dreams can inspire us and motivate us to do the tasks at hand that need to be done in the moment. Good advice Joe.

amymck said...

Your series has been quite timely for me, although, I admitted tonight I don't fit in w/ the "young" crowd anymore! I sat at the 2nd rehearsal for my first musical theater experience since I was in elementary school, and listened to these lyrics and tried not to cry:
May I return to the beginning
The light is dimming, and the dream is too
The world and I, we are still waiting
Still hesitating
Any dream will do

I've been dreaming a lot lately, some big dreams, some little but it all has led me to new places, and like you said places I wouldn't have gone otherwise. I'm happier than I was before I did the dreaming and the acting on those dreams, albeit there's huge obstacles in the way. But I am happy to still have the ability to keep on dreaming new dreams because I know if I stop dreaming then there's no hope left! I might not achieve all those granD dreams, but I'm amazed at all the things I've accomplished that I never knew were even part of my dreams til I did it! thanks for all the encouragement! So glad you were called to VCC and Cincy, it's a better place w/ the Boyd's in it!

Laurie said...

Thank you for taking the time and putting this together, I am finding it very helpful to where I am at in my journey

Sherry said...

Joe, whether you know it or not, you are still ministering to people here in Vegas through your posts. Thank you for sharing your life, and sharing your thoughts. Again, just what was needed at just the right time.

Blessings to you and the family!