As I listened to a Gaither Homecoming CD, gospel country music and the Happy Goodman family captured my imagination with an idea set to music. Howard Goodman took the lead and sang, “I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true, I’ve seen them vanish at dawn. But enough of my dreams have come true that I keep dreaming on.”
“Me too!” was my immediate response.
As I mused about the song, I remembered blustery Peter brought dreams and visions into his first post Pentecostal sermon. He quoted from the prophet Joel, “In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. Acts 2:17 (MsgB)” What a list from one verse of scripture-last days, all people, prophecy by daughters and sons, visions, and dreams. That list sabotaged their pessimism and stretched their faith.
The exegetical evidence is clear-on the day of Pentecost the outpoured Spirit inspired anticipations beyond anything the first century disciples could think or imagine. Old routines no longer satisfied. The miraculous made it hard to settle for the mundane and marginal. God had a glorious future planned for the transforming power of the gospel and they were key players in the plan.
Soon they were asking God and each other and themselves, what if? What if God expects us to impact the world? What if God has chosen Saul of Tarsus as a key leader in the church? What if God wants us to be martyred for the cause?
The what if list goes on and on as one reads the New Testament. The what if questions need to be asked again and again in every period of human history, including ours.
WHAT IF every pastor and congregation saw their setting as a mission field, fully as needy and fully as fertile as any overseas mission location?
WHAT IF every city in the US and Canada with five or more Nazarene Churches established and funded an urban ministry center that could be used for compassionate ministry activities, youth outreach, and housing for multiple new start congregations?
WHAT IF every ministerial student committed to a year in ministry to the cities after graduation and before taking their first assignments?
WHAT IF every Nazarene saw compassion as an important part of their Christian walk?
WHAT IF we prayed with the Salvation Army songwriter, “Lord, for thy mission make me holy?”
WHAT IF we tried to solve our Black pastoral shortage by contacting hundreds of pastors of store front churches to see if any of them would like to be Nazarenes?
WHAT IF being crucified with Christ, to use Paul’s expression, made us dead to a thirst for position and power and made us submissive servants and selfless shepherds?
WHAT IF every church felt responsible to partner with an inner city church?
WHAT IF everyone who believes reconciliation and justice committed themselves to helping plant an urban church which throbbed biblical vitality?
WHAT IF every multicultural church felt responsible to start an Anglo church and if every Anglo church felt responsible to start a multicultural church?
WHAT IF every Nazarene saw the adventuresome life of holiness as the catalyst for an awakening in our time?
Though George Bernard Shaw, was probably not thinking about church, one of his short sentences always moves me, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” I have been described as a dreamer, a visionary, a soul brother in mission, unrealistic, and a few other less complementary words. No matter. On the last day of my service to Christ I want to be asking, “What if ” and “Why not?”
All of church history stands as a prologue to what God wants to do through us in our present and in our future.
by Neil B. Wiseman