On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of the most powerful speeches in the history of the world. The occasion was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that became one of the critical moments in the civil rights movement in the United States. The speech became known as the “I Have A Dream” speech.
If time travel ever became possible this is one of the moments in history that I would love to visit. It was a moment when the words of one man moved the hearts of thousands and in so doing changed the world.
As part of that speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. uttered these words.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
“I have a dream today.”
I recently watched the movie “Selma” which tells the story of the courageous men and women who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 as part of a protest march over the issue of voting rights for people of colour. The marchers were attacked by police with tear gas and billy clubs sending seventeen marchers to hospital and injuring about fifty more.
In spite of the opposition, Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream radically changed the world.
I was in Africa on the day when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. It was an interesting experience to hear people in another country an ocean away celebrating the fact that a person of African decent could be elected to the most powerful office in the world.
The value of a dream
I was hesitant to use King’s “I Have A Dream” speech as the introduction to this blog because I recognize that it was a moment in history that will never be repeated. It was a moment in a important cause that gave courage and purpose to those taking part in the civil rights movement at that time.
Martin Luther King, Jr. eventually gave his life for that cause. Listening to the announcement that he had been shot is one of the saddest memories of my teenage years. I still remember where I was sitting when the announcement came across the television.
A great man had died in an attempt to bring freedom and justice to his people. The world was a poorer place as a result.
King’s dream didn’t die with him though and while the full extent of that dream has yet to be realized, progress has been made because he dared to share his dream with others.
What can we learn from this great man’s life.
Without a dream the world never changes.
People must be able to see a better world before they will commit themselves to change.
They must be able to see what can be before they will invest their time, their energy and their resources in a cause.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was not the only person to die in the campaign for civil rights. Other people also sacrificed their lives because they caught his dream and responded.
My dream for the small church
I have a dream
It is my prayer that it is a dream that many of you will share in.
I have a dream that small, healthy churches all over Canada will be used by the Holy Spirit to send a message to the larger church community that big is not necessarily better and small is definitely not worse.
I have a dream that small, healthy churches will produce leaders that God will use to shape the future of the church in Canada.
I have a dream that small, healthy churches will bond together in such a way that they will serve as an encouragement and support for each other recognizing that while alone they may be small, together they can be a powerful force in this country.
I have a dream.
I have a dream that the day will come when large churches and medium-sized churches and small churches will stand on an equal footing with each other recognizing the inherent value of the other and each working together for the cause of Jesus Christ.
I have a dream that our churches will be filled with radical disciples rather than comfortable Christians whatever size the church may be.
I have a dream
I have a dream that people in small, healthy churches all across Canada will grasp the reality that their value as a church is not determined by their size but by their relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not the externals. It is the relationship with Jesus that gives a church value.
I have a dream that the phrase “It is just a small church” will disappear from the vocabulary of church people across Canada forever.
Your place in the dream
First, if you identify with this dream, I would love to receive your feedback. Take a moment and respond. Let me know that I am not the only person who shares this dream.
Second, accept the fact that it is not size that gives value to your church. You will never grow a healthy church until you look beyond the size and see the potential of the people you already have. This is the church that God has put you in and it is the church in which he wants you to serve.
Third, think beyond just your own small church. Next week I am going to write about the importance of uniting with other churches. Alone you might be small but you are one of thousands of other small churches in Canada. Those small churches need to have a united voice.
Fourth, dare to dream. One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a church leader is that she can lose her potential to dream. Don’t dream about what your church could be if things were only different – more people, more resources, more finances, more . . . Dream about what God can do with what is already there.
May God bless you as you serve him in that special church where you are right now.