That quote was taken from the first chapter of a great little book that, based solely upon it's cover, would almost always be overlooked today, 8 Habits of Highly Effective Small Group Leaders. I wholeheartedly agree with that quote not just because that has been my experience, but more importantly, it is a clear reflection of God's hope for His church to transform the world through the power of the Gospel. I have seen God do tremendous things through small groups over the last 16 years. Yet, as many of us have also seen, the potential found within groups often goes unrealized. God is moving powerfully all over the earth. And, God is moving powerfully at Normandy. Testimonies abound of God's provision, healing, and grace. But, there is always more! There is no measure to His power and love. He is continually calling us into greater places of intimacy with Him and faith to believe for His will to be done in our lives and through the church.
Why is that the case that we settle for less than what God says is possible? Is it because without vision, we cast off restraint and lose focus and passion? (Proverbs 29:18) Is it because of the pressure around us that keeps us from ordering our lives around a holy expectation to see God do something that only He can do? (Mark 4:19) If I asked you, "What is your dream for your current Group?", what would you say? What are some dreams, hopes, or desires you have for your life and the Group you are a part of? I’d encourage you to take a moment to think about that before reading on.
Dreams Lead to Legacy
Fourteen years ago on a spring break mission trip to Juarez, Mexico, God burned this idea of church planting on my heart. At the time I couldn’t see how it would happen, or with whom, or where… or even when. The only thing I knew was that if the Lord was going to raise me up one day to help lead a church, it wouldn’t be because I was the most talented or dynamic. No, it would only happen if I was faithful in the little things over the long haul (Luke 16:10). So I began to give the majority of my time and life to leading small groups and discipling men.
I didn’t care who got the credit or if there was fame involved. I was just wanted to see God’s glory spread throughout the earth! God put a dream in my heart that He used to cultivate, motivate, and encourage me to press on over the years. I had vision to keep going when it got tough because I dreamt of God doing something great in my life to bring Him glory.
What are your dreams? What do you hope God will do through your Group? Do you dream for multiplication and salvation? What about raising up people in your Group to take over a community and transforming families and schools with the hope of Jesus Christ? What about empowering businessmen and women to bless their neighborhoods, bridge socioeconomic divides, unite communities, and fund the gospel going to the nations? Maybe you dream about seeing your group radically loving Jesus and consistently spending time with Him and with the Word?
We all have dreams and desires. The question is what are we dreaming, desiring, and hoping for the most? Are our dreams constrained to the extent of our abilities, or are our dreams God-sized, requiring us to walk by faith? Dreams are important and often determine the outcome of our efforts. As the age-old proverb goes, vision or die. In other words, hang on to your dream or lose heart and settle for less. We have to have a short term vision for what we are doing to match the long term vision of what we dream of seeing 5 or 10 or 50 years down the road.
Dreams Produce Passion
All of us need dreams to go for. Without getting a glimpse of what God desires to do... without seeing what is possible through grace and faith... and without embracing steadfastness along the way, we are all prone to lose heart at some point and come up with "perfectly rational reasons" why that dream was “unrealistic” or “immature”. Do you think Satan is threatened with wimpy dreams? “I just want to be a cuddly huddle group for 80 years and go really really really deep together.” Alright. That sounds quite wonderful. Deep friendship is most assuredly a gift from God and to be intentionally pursued and fought for. I could talk for an hour about the significance and incredible impact deep, committed friendship has had on my life. But, if that was my greatest longing, what is missing in that dream? Where in that dream is God’s passion to save and transform the world? If Jesus is our model to emulate, we clearly see that His love for God and willingness to obey Him was His first priority. His whole life, including his friendships, were a bi-product of His obedience.
I try not to overly concern myself what other churches are doing around us or how many people are involved there... or for that matter, how many people are involved here. I try to focus on what God desires to do in us now. I can't control everyone else. I can't control a lot of things! But, what I can do is seek God (Mattew 6:33) and trust that He will lead us down paths of righteousness for His Name's sake (Psalm 23). Every revival, community transformation, or move of God started with a small group of committed people that were living for the next generation with a long term perspective. It is enough to just be faithful to do my part to see the dream of God happen in my life and in the lives of those I lead.
Do we have a dream to see the Kingdom of God come to earth as it is in Heaven? What will that look like for you specifically? How will God use your gifts? How is He calling you to steward your time? Does it play a part in the Great Commission? Does it leave a lasting legacy in the community long after you are gone? If so, has that dream settled deep enough in our hearts and minds to create a white-hot passion for it? The evidence of real passion is found in a willingness to endure the light and momentary afflictions in order to accomplish the goal.
1. Get time alone with God, a Bible, and a journal. Write out any of your fears, insecurities and places of unbelief surrounding your personal call to lead and ability to do so. Write it all out and put those thoughts in the light. Then ask the Lord a few simple questions like the ones below and just start writing. The first 3 questions are more for you personally. The last question is for your Group.
- What are You calling me to in this season of life? (This helps answer that question)
- What do You want to accomplish in my life through this? How do You want to make me more like Jesus?
- Where do I fit into the big picture of Your Kingdom being advanced in the earth? What is the long term vision that You have for my life?
- What is the short term vision for the Group I am a part of? What do you want to accomplish is us this season? What is the focus for the next quarter or year?
2. Next, cast a compelling vision to your group. They buy into dreams! If they catch the vision, they will pray for it and live for it. If we don’t have a compelling vision we need to seek God for a greater dream! If our dream is not laughable then we are most likely dreaming too small and constraining what God wants to do into something that we can probably do without His power and grace. Seriously. I would rather dream big with God, and potentially fail going for the God-sized dream, than pat ourselves on the back for hitting 1000 people on a Sunday as if we have arrived. The dream has to be God-sized and something that is impossible without Him.
3. Cultivate steadfastness. About the testing of our faith, James says in 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Having a dream influences your future. It helps you overcome obstacles and keeps us from quitting. When I began to lead my first Group my freshman year at Baylor, I wanted to quit every week. That went on for a year and a half until God uprooted some serious issues of pride and self-willed performance in my heart. Thankfully, God gave me the dream of leading and planting on the front end of that time, otherwise I’m not sure I would have stuck to it. God's promise gives pain a purpose.
Our Vision / Sermon from the Rhythm Series by John Bower
Vision Determines Rhythm / Sermon from the Rhythm Series by Preston Todd
The Ordered Life / Sermon from the Rhythm Series by Joshua Sorrows
Hope: The Womb of Legacy / Sermon from Bill Johnson, Pastor at Bethel Church
Preston Todd is a Pastor at Normandy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org