The Church as a Dream Factory or a Do Factory?

March 2, 2010 by

Last month I read a blog post from Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. He said that the church ought to be a dream factory. Yes! Churches need to dream more and imagine what God can do in our neighborhoods and communities.

But then Jeremy Scheller, the communications and design coordinator at The Sanctuary in Minneapolis, made the comment that “the church ought to be a ‘do’ factory. It spends too much time dreaming of crap it never does.” Yes! How many dreams go unrealized in the hearts of frustrated volunteers and church leaders?

Here I am sitting in the midst of contradiction, as usual. So I talked to Jeremy and Mark to get their further thoughts. Should the church be involved in more dreaming or more doing? As usual, the answer is both.

“Too much church activity is nothing more than human effort and human effort isn’t enough,” Mark says. “We need God-ordained dreams.” These “God ideas” are something Mark talks about in his book, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. These are the ideas that change the world because they come from God and not us.

But Jeremy also has a point: “The church is still in decline, the broader culture still thinks we’re a bunch of hypocrites, and I think it’s largely because we don’t ‘act’ in a way that adequately represents the faith we claim,” he says. “Our production time might be better spent engaging and living a life in which people benefit more from our actions than our thoughts.”

Mark agrees: “It’s a two-sided coin. We have a value at NCC: Pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you. It has to be both/and.”

Mark even gave us a handy formula:

  • Doing – Dreaming = Waste of Energy.
  • Dreaming – Doing = Disobedience
  • Dreaming + Doing = Exponential Kingdom Impact

Is your church dreaming, doing or both?

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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4 Responses to “The Church as a Dream Factory or a Do Factory?”

  • Shannon Smith
    March 2, 2010

    I totally agree with the “both/and” approach. I believe this is the way God has designed it.
    It all goes back to our giftings, i.e. gifts of the spirit or spiritual gifts. Inside of a local church community, there is room for, and a necessity for, both dreamers and doers.
    God has given me the ability to dream up ideas for how His kingdom can be extended here on earth, but I am terrible about seeing those ideas to completion. That’s why I surround myself with people that are “doers”,i.e. people that get stuff done, see details I don’t, and follow through on things.
    I believe, this extends beyond a single local church and can be applied to the Church at large. If the church down the street has already dreamed up a brilliant idea for how God’s kingdom can be expanded in your city, there is no need for you to come up with your own dream. Take your doers and humbly ask them how you can collaborate with them and serve along side of them to see God move in this direction.
    To me, the picture as the Church as a body is beautiful. We all have a significant role to play and without each other we cannot reach the full potential of what God has called us to collectively.

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  • Marc Aune
    March 4, 2010

    I wonder if the dreaming and the doing are best delegated to the church and to the individual, respectfully. I see the church as a gathering of many minds that can think creatively and come up with more, better ideas than any one person could do on his or her own. I see individual Christians as the ones who implement the ideas that the many think up.
    It seems significant that Jesus had his disciples together at times, but then also sent them away on their own. The times when they were together were often unifying, with teaching and fellowship. Then, they were sent on their own to minister to others. There were overlaps in what they did (they fed the 5,000 while together), but the lesson learned is that there are some things better suited to the group and some better for the individual to do.
    I also think it’s fair to criticize the notion of needing to “dream” in the first place; the Bible has some pretty good ideas for ministry already. Showing Christ’s love to others will always be relevant. Perhaps the only true dreaming needed is to figure out the best way to do that.

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  • Ken Eastburn
    March 4, 2010

    Another way to frame the conversation might be “Faith or Works”.
    At least, it seems to me that it would work.
    If framed in that way, we must be focused first and foremost on our faith that is the result of free grace. We do not need to earn anything, we do not need to do any good deed in order to gain eternal life.
    But, it is because of that fact, that we are enabled to serve and “do” freely. When we are not trying to earn something, our serving becomes more complete.
    So, I’ll disagree with Jeremy’s apparent assumption that the church needs to do damage control of our image in society.
    That is the wrong motivation for doing.

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  • Eric Seiberling
    March 20, 2010

    Great post. I agree that the Book of James makes it clear that we are to follow the “Genius of the AND” in this case. We need to pray like our life depends on it to seek God’s Will and work like mad since God is depending on us to “re-present” Christ to the world.
    Too many churches get caught up the in love of strategic planning vs. what I would call “following the needs of the community.”
    I have seen an urban church in Cincinnati grow from 35 to over 110 by following a philosophy of:
    1) Look for an unmet need in the community God would want us to fill. (needs-based ministry)
    2) Take a run at solving it. (execute with excellence)
    3) Keep feeding, tweaking and nuturing what works and prune what doesn’t. (following the spiritual fruit)
    It isn’t a hard concept to look, test and prune, but many churches are so afraid to fail that they have stopped trying at all.
    It takes a healthy mix of dreaming and doing. I think it is more effective in “do-able steps” than “big leaps” for many of our churches that are stuck and in decline.

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