Dreaming is an important facet of our discipleship journey, both corporately and individually.  Dreaming encourages us to “look ahead”, to “vision cast”, to “imagine a brighter, better future”. Dreaming also enables us to trust, to hope, and to walk by faith.

The Bible contains many examples of “dreamers”. People who either experienced dreams which led them onto their life path, or people who grew a dream within them which changed the course of history. The Christian faith provides us with a plethora of examples of “dreaming” and “dreams”, more than enough to encourage us to join the brigade of “the dreamers”.

In more modern times we also have many examples of “dreamers”:

  • Martin Luther King Jr famously declared at the 1963 march for civil and economic rights and the end of racism: “I have a dream …”—he pursued his dream vigorously and passionately, and although he paid the ultimate price for his dream, his dream came to fruition.
  • Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of an India which was independent from colonial rule, and he devoted his life to peacefully pursuing it.
  • Mother Teresa dreamt of a world in which poverty was overcome and love shared freely and equally, and devoted her life to bringing this dream to pass.

The Bible also makes an important point regarding “dreaming” in Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision (no dream) the people perish.”

“Vision” and “dreaming” is an important part of us and of our discipleship journey. Without “vision”, without a dream, we perish.

When I consider “dreaming” personally, and when I link it to discipleship, I apply the following:  Jesus stated that discipleship has a price. Is dreaming … visioning … part of that price? Should our commitment to our personal and church community discipleship journey include being committed to being a people who dream; a people who are open to God growing visions and dreams within us; and people who are prepared to weather the tough days to see the dream to fruition?

Are we prepared to be people of dreams?

Are we prepared to take risks?

Are we prepared to find ways to action our dreams in the present so they may lead us forward in discipleship?

“Where there is no vision/dream the people perish”—my hope is that each of us recognise the significance and importance of being God’s dreamers in today’s world.

Many blessings.

You will not be surprised to learn that I dream big dreams; so much so that sometimes people even shudder when I start the sentence with “I’ve been thinking …”.

However, last night I attended an event where I felt reborn into a church that has huge dreams for itself and the community in which it formed—amazing and inspiring dreams of a creative and creating God that put even my biggest dreams into perspective.

At that event, as people recounted their dreams around how they could exercise their call by God to be disciples of Christ in their community, we were all reminded of the powerful Statement to the Nation made by the Uniting Church in Australia in 1977.

This statement, (which is often referred to in part, but often not studied as a whole) casts a dream of ecclesial (church-based or corporate) discipleship that is intended for centuries of life. A church called to be in the world in substance, a continuing witness to the world about whose we are and who we are.

I was reborn as a beautiful recitation of the statement sang to me again—reminded me that my discipleship to Christ finds itself through the witness of the Uniting Church in Australia—reminded me that we all carry our own understandings of the task of the church, the nature of discipleship, the nature of the community into which we are called. It reminded me again of my promise to you when I became General Secretary, that I don’t do things on my own, and that I am constantly called into community. The Statement to the Nation sang to me as it told of the deep and thick witnesses we have as disciples of Christ, those that reach over centuries, and millennia and over the whole of creation.

I was left with a wonderful sense of restoration, peace and delight, from the recognition that the biggest dreams of ecclesial discipleship are our heritage and witness today.

Thanks be to God.

Can there be a shadow side—a risk—in developing a sharper focus on discipleship as core business for the church?” asks Presbytery Minister for the South Moreton Presbytery Rev David Busch.

Absolutely. Two immediately come to mind.

One is an exaggerated sense of effort. How easily does discipleship become all about us, what we should do, how we should live, what we need to change! We take upon ourselves the task of transformation of self and society, and feel burdened with expectations, guilt and inadequacy.

Yes, Jesus does counsel us to weigh up the cost, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer did famously write about the “cost of discipleship”. But that cost is not our striving effort, but our relinquishment. It is the cost of surrendering to the yoke of obedience to Christ, in whom we find true freedom and wholeness.

Discipleship is not so much a journey of demand and denial (although it is that!) as it is of changed desires: learning to desire rightly. It is not a journey of our own self-improvement, but of God taking hold of us ever more deeply, that we might live in the fullness of life—not ours, but Christ’s.

The second risk is an exaggerated sense of individualism—that we target our proclamation of the gospel solely towards personal encounters, personal decisions, personal outworking of faith. We can easily forget that, as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes more than a private spirituality to grow a disciple.

This is not to deny that God seeks each of us personally. But the communal dimension of discipleship—being drawn into the messiness of Christian communities, where the chasm between abstract ideals and our broken lives is spanned only by grace and love, given and received—reminds us of two fundamental truths of discipleship.

One—that everyone and everything is being reconciled to God through Christ. We are called not just to Christ but also to each other, and all together as members of the one body of Christ. The commitment that we belong to each other, despite everything that otherwise would keep us apart, is our witness to God’s reconciling purposes.

Two—that Christ is revealed in those around us. The God of the incarnation may meet us in our detachment and introversion, but will also be revealed in the stories of others who, in their own way, sing the Lord’s song, dance to the spirit’s beat and bear the light of Christ. 

Perhaps we might reframe discipleship—not being a journey we take (our discipleship to grow in God) but being a work God does in and for us (God’s discipling of us). Grammatically, making God the subject and us the object enables us to see that the action is God’s, not ours.

Then we might hold these risks in tension as we let God do the discipling, opening us to dream God’s dreams and to live in the future-now reign of God.

The power to dream has driven the great minds throughout the ages to create and innovate but in the context of the church what can dreaming dreams provide for the next chapter in the Uniting Church and its place in the community? UnitingCare Queensland’s Connect 100 Coordinator Scott Guyatt considers dreaming past, present and future for the church.

“I have a dream.” 

From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial the words echoed out in the moment, and on down through the generations. This refrain from Martin Luther King Jr’s landmark speech strikes a chord in all of us. There is power in those words. Inspiration. Challenge. Possibility.

When Albert Einstein was asked whether he trusted more to his imagination or his knowledge, he responded: “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination encircles the world.”

Imagination, the capacity to dream, to wonder, to visualise, to create or concoct is, I am convinced, a God-given gift. The outcome of dreams or imagination reveal to us new possibilities. Dreaming and imagining begins the unfolding of a new world which can then be lived into being. That is the power of a dream.

The invitation, I think, is to dream dreams that are consistent with the heart of God for the world, with God’s purposes and mission. The writer of Philippians, at the end of a passage encouraging prayer, rejoicing, gentleness and thanksgiving as hallmarks of the Christian community invites us to dream in this way: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

That’s a wide net to cast for our dreaming and imagination. The good, the pure, the just, the pleasing, the excellent, the worthy of praise. Can you imagine a Christian community characterised by these kinds of dreams, these kinds of thoughts? And then with the courage to pursue such things? Can you imagine it?

Coincidentally as I was contemplating this notion of dreaming dreams consistent with God’s purpose for us, I happened to re-read the Statement to the Nation made at the time of our church’s inauguration in 1977. What a powerful statement it continues to be, and a statement that can easily be read through the lens of dreaming dreams consistent with Philippians 4:8. This is a church that dreamed of justice, integrity, love, compassion, the gospel proclaimed in Australia and beyond. A church that dreamed of challenging poverty, racism, systemic abuses, environmental degradation and more. A church that dreamed of holding its first allegiance to God no matter the implications of that allegiance. A church that dreamed of being guided not by self-interest, but by the welfare of all who are made in the image of God.

Those were, and remain, powerful dreams. Dreams to build a church upon. Dreams to challenge a society to be better. Dreams that ring true with God’s purpose for us. Dreams that are true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable. Dreams that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Let’s keep dreaming that dream, a dream that, in Einstein’s words, can encircle the world. And more than that, let us speak out those dreams, name them, share them, and like Luther King Jr, declare them. 

And then, let us be so bold as to pursue those dreams. Now, and always.

Plentiful Conversation – Discipleship at Newlife Church.

We look at Newlife Church and some of the dreaming that is occurring within that congregation.

Discipleship Working Group.

Despite the limitations of lockdowns, people from all over the Synod are coming together in the Plenty working groups to speak openly and honestly about making changes and discovering ways forward.

Director of Mission Strategy Scott Guyatt invites the whole church to work together on the first of the commitments—discipleship.

“The call we heard most loudly and clearly when we conducted consultation last year, was to work on a restored discipleship, reminding us of the core business of the church,” said Scott.

Discipleship (Innovation)

Our world and communities are constantly changing and so too must our church in order to share the timeless message of Christ.

Director of Mission Strategy Scott Guyatt invites you to be part of this Shared life. Flourishing communities commitment.

Toowong Plenty Conversations.

The rejuvenation of Toowong Uniting Church is profiled in the latest video as part of the Plentiful Conversation series. As part of this rejuvenation, the congregation worked hard to create a missional imagination where members of the congregation celebrated the stories of where God was at work in people’s lives beyond church on a Sunday.

SSC video on Shared life flourishing communities.

“As a whole church, we are going to work on this together”.
Watch this video to find out why the Synod Standing Committee are excited by the initiatives presented in the Shared life flourishing communities progress report.

Discipleship through community connection. Plenty in action.

Coral Coast Uniting Church shares how they are growing mission through being part of their community. SurfChurch to bible at the beach. Fantastic connection allows the community to come together in faith.

Discipleship (Young people)

Encouraging young people to nurture their faith, serve God and practice leadership in our church and the world.

Be part of this exciting work by registering your interest.