Bishop: It Takes God-Sized Dream to Get Out of Mud
Watch State of the Church Address (begins at 49:53 of video)
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton told members of the 2012 Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference on June 7 that, despite some challenges, he senses “a little more joy and a little more hope in Western Pennsylvania than in previous years.”
Because of that, he said in his State of the Church address, “it might just be a time for some God-sized dreams.”
The Bishop defined a God-sized dream as “a vision of something that you and I cannot accomplish on our own. It is bold, challenging, and just far enough out there that you can’t get there without the spirit’s help.”
A God-sized dream also has another necessary component, he said. “On the way to fulfilling it, you have to be willing to accept that it may end up different than you have first envisioned. Why? Because it is God’s dream, not your own.”
The entire story of God’s people in the holy scriptures is a story of God-sized dreams, the Bishop said. The Wesleyan movement within an 18th-Century Anglican Church that had become stiff, lax and complacent was the start of a God-sized dream.
“It was a movement of the spirit that did nothing less than preach a message of grace, hope, and love to all corners of the world,” Bishop Bickerton said. “The architect of it all was not John Wesley, but God at work through this committed servant.”
Bishop Bickerton described the port in the village of Pill, where Methodist preachers like Thomas Coke set sail for America. It has one of the three most dramatic tidal shifts in the world, he said, and in some seasons, the water is literally sucked out of the channel and boats are stuck in the mud.
“It seems to me that this image is pretty representative of some of our churches. There is a vision of something more, but somewhere along the way, they have gotten stuck in the mud,” he said. “God has provided the way for us to go, but it requires a keen awareness of when the tide is coming and going. You can want to get where God wants you to go, but you’ll never get there under your own time frame or with your own idea of how to do it. It takes a God-sized dream.”
Bishop Bickerton said that while he believes the Conference is in a good place, it is not perfect.
“I long for a day when I will not see the pain on a District Superintendent’s face in having to report that a church will not receive a pastor due to their race or gender,” he said.
“If you are representing a local church in this room today, please hear me – we live in a racist world but we cannot tolerate a racist church. We live in a world where there are denominations who do not accept women in roles of leadership – we are not one of those denominations.
“I have a God-sized dream that we, with resolve and determination, will look like the face of Jesus in our churches rather than the face of the world.”
Later, he added, “I have a God-sized dream that we will one day hear that our churches have opened their doors freely to the people of the community, seek out those who need the care and fellowship the church offers, and truly becomes a place where all of God’s children are invited into the heart of God.
“My concept of the church has always been a very simple one: The church is a place where people love, not hurt others.”
Although they should, Bishop Bickerton said, “in reality, most churches don’t have a plan for making disciples. And even in churches where such a plan exists, it runs the risk of being a human-sized plan, rather than a God-sized vision.
“A God-sized dream involves a critical analysis of the biblical record of how God works, combined with a firm conviction that God still works that way today. Added to that, a God-sized dream involves something that isn’t so normal in the scheme of human life today – surrender. On bended knee we must once again give ourselves and our church away and realize that it will not look the same ever again,” he said.
“To turn it over to God means that we must reframe our understanding of accomplishment and success. Even the strongest of congregations can do many things, but those things may not be a God-sized dream. To turn it over means that we say, ‘Together we can, but with God we will.’”
The Bishop asked Conference members to go home and have significant conversations with their church leaders around three questions:
· Why Jesus?
· What is God calling me/us to do differently in the next 3-5 years?
· What is our disciple-making plan? He said those who don’t have one should begin the work.
He also urged the members to “create at least one God-sized dream for your church/charge. One vision, at least, of something you should be pursuing in your life/ministry that you realize will take more than just your abilities and resources to accomplish. What is something that needs to be changed or created that will require the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit if it is going to be pursued?”
To start the process, the members shared with partners something they needed to repent of and prayed together.