I Have a Dream...

Editor’s Note: This month, I was asked to contribute an article to The Jenkins Institute’s Hope & Expectation journal. The theme this month is “My Dream for the Church.” I chose to write on the subject of “I Have a Dream…to be ‘of Christ.’” I pray Jesus is glorified by it. — mcw “I have a dream…”

Those words are historic and iconic as they came from the lips of Martin Luther King Jr. a half-century ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. They went on to inspire the Civil Rights movement to persevere in its quest for equality in this country, regardless of one’s pigmentation. What many don’t know is that much of what King said in that speech was off the cuff—he strayed from his prepared remarks when it seemed he was losing the audience.

I, too, have a dream for the church. It’s not a novel dream. It’s not sensational, but rather fundamental. My dream is that we would return “Christ” to his rightful place in our churches and in our movement, a quest to restore the church to its New Testament ideal.

In many ways, some churches (both liberal and conservative) have strayed from this. “Of Christ” is a designation that deserves more attention than on the sign out front. In every way, it should become our guiding light.

We need to be “of Christ” when it comes to our worship. When the church comes together, Christ should be at the center of all we do. Would we impose a limit on how long the sermon could be, or would we be patient as Christ was glorified in the message? Would we race through communion, or slow it down so that we might truly “commune” with the crucified Lord? My dream is that our worship would increasingly become “of Christ.”

We need to be “of Christ” when it comes to our approach to church growth. It’s not wrong to have a nice facility, better-organized parking, innovative children’s classes, or a talented preacher with a strong gift in communication. But sometimes we get the notion in our dim-witted heads that these things are the sure-fire secret to growing our congregations. As a result, we fire a minister who has faithfully labored for many years “because he just isn’t connecting,” or we pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into new building projects thinking “if we build it, they will come,” etc. All the while, we ignore the simple principle that exalting Christ and an unwavering commitment to the Word of God are the only Scripture-sanctioned ways to grow a church (cf. John 12:32; Acts 20:32).

We need to be “of Christ” in our discipline or “discipling.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for saying, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Jesus’ call to salvation is so much more than a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free card. The Lord invites into a growing relationship where we learn to love and serve God, but also learn to love and serve one another. But instead of calling church members to a higher plane of Christian living, we are often tempted to water-down expectations to a bare minimum. What if we had the same expectations for ourselves and one another as Jesus does?

I occasionally read articles that do nothing but bash the church for what she’s doing wrong. It is not necessarily my intent to do that here. There is a place, however, for dreams to be shared and challenges to be issued. It’s important we never lose sight of what really matters: Christ. In every way possible, let’s make sure we are glorifying Christ in the church and making our church “of Christ.” Otherwise, our Savior might do as he did to certain churches of Asia some 1,900 years ago—Christ might walk amongst us and remove our lampstand, making us no longer “of Christ.

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