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Is it Possible to Dream TOO Big?

August 15, 2012

Precursor: To be honest I’m not 100% sure of this post.  However, it’s something I’m working through and would love your thoughts…

I don’t remember too much about 4th grade.  I remember I loved to play kickball.  I remember one time I smarted off to my teacher and she pulled me into the hallway and chewed me out.  But one thing that is crystal clear in my mind is the Garfield poster on the wall.  It was I guess the 4th grade equivalent to those motivational posters in executives offices in the 90s.  it had a picture of Garfield grinning at you like he’d just eaten an entire lasagna, and underneath it said, “Aim for the stars…because if you miss you’ll still land on the moon.”

I guess it was supposed to be motivational, but it just left me wondering, “Why does Garfield eat lasagna anyway?  He’s a cat!”


The conventional wisdom in church planting says that you have to dream big, have a big vision, dream the impossible.  Having a crystal clear vision of the future is essential to successful church planting, we are told.  We even see this confirmed in business books that are helpful for church planters.  Have a BHAG.  Cast a compelling vision.  And on and on and on.

All of that’s fine, but here is my contention: we need to dream small.  So many church planters have a big vision of changing an entire city or of planting 1000 daughter churches or of planting a church that will grow to 6000 people.  I think we need to dream a lot smaller than that.

Wait a second you say.  What about Martin Luther King Jr?  What about sending a man to the moon?  What about pioneers who started what are now world-changing churches?  Didn’t they have dreams that were so huge?  Yes, they absolutely did.  But 2 things we need to realize about big visions:

First, those things were already visible.  They weren’t visions that were out of nowhere.  Kennedy wasn’t telling a 3rd world country to shoot for the moon; we were already in the space race, he just took the next step.

Second, launching a church is the big vision! 1 in 3 churches fails within 4 years.  After 1 year 70% of small businesses are still alive, and 50% after 5 years.  If your goal is to launch a sustainable church, period, that is your big vision.  Church planters get in trouble when we stack big vision on top of big vision.

I think it’s better to dream small for 3 reasons:

  • It sets you up for reality.  1 in 3 church plants fail, and that is the most generous number I’ve found.  So just launching a church that lasts is a huge goal.  Most churches in our country are under 200 people.
  • It enables you to praise God for going big.  If your vision is a 6000 person church you aim to become one of the .01% of largest churches in America.  If that’s your vision you won’t ever be able to thank God for what he’s achieving at your church because it’s smaller than your dream.   By dreaming small you are able to thank God.
  • This way you don’t overpromise and underdeliver.  You gain credibility as a leader, so people will follow you.  We have all seen leaders who overpromise and underdeliver—we call them bad salesmen.
So what do you think?  Do you see church planters sometimes dreaming TOO big?  

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