Summary: Using the pattern of MLK’s famous speech, this message tries to set forth a congregational vision.
I have a dream
(With apologies to MLK, jr. 1962)
In the Old Testament we are told that young men shall see visions and old men shall dream dreams (Joel 2:28). Some of you know that 3 or 4 times a year I am blessed with dreams about this congregation while I sleep. In most of these dreams I see lots of people in church, full Sunday school classes, and worship services overflowing with people. I awake from these dreams renewed and full of joy. I suppose all pastors dream of the perfect congregation, but perhaps they don’t tell anyone. Someone has said that pastors should preach an "I have a dream" sermon occasionally. Now that I have turned 60 and have been privileged to see a new year as well as a new millennium, my time has come. Today I want to share with you my dream for this congregation. Let me begin at the beginning.
Over 100 years ago (1886), members of the Sugar Creek Church of the Brethren launched an outreach mission project in Lima. Their own church on Bluelick Road had prospered by the grace of God and they felt compelled to enter the city with the message of the gospel. For 11 years this new group worshiped in rented buildings: first in a barn, then in private homes, and even in the courthouse. In 1897 they began to build a permanent structure just east of where this building stands. It was completed four years later and dedicated on February 2, 1902. On that day, 30 charter members were received into the church.
In 1910, 15 Brethren families moved into this neighborhood to live near the church. By 1933 the membership of the church had grown to 200. By 1940 the church had a strong youth program including its own men’s and women’s basketball teams. In addition, this church had one of the best fenced-in tennis courts in town. A choir of nearly 50 members supplied the weekly anthem for church services. A junior church was begun to meet the educational needs of the many children who attended. In 1953 church membership reached its peak of 400 members. In 1964, construction began on the building we are worshiping in today which was to serve as a fellowship hall. The plan was to replace the old sanctuary eventually with a new one that would connect to this building.
Unfortunately, beginning in the late sixties, the ravages of economic adversity, social change, and other factors rapidly diminished the number of members until 1981 when the old sanctuary was demolished and this building began to serve as the congregation’s worship center. In 1984, as the small group that remained deliberated about their future, they came within one vote of closing the doors. By 1985, only about two-dozen faithful members remained, some of whom had almost given up their dream of a strong Church of the Brethren congregation in Lima.
But I believe that those of you who stayed and those of you who returned and those of you who have joined us in recent years still nurture that dream and look for something new. And in spite of the loss and adversity and discouragement you have experienced, you know in your heart that God can fulfill the dreams and visions of faithful followers today just as he has in generations past. And so today I want to share my dream, a dream that is rooted in the Word of God and in the vision of His people.
I have a dream that this congregation will become a strong community of committed followers of Christ who can bring light and salt to an increasingly dark and decadent society and can demonstrate another way of living, one that challenges the individualism and the self-centeredness of a money-driven, secular culture.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that boys and girls, men and women, black and white, rich and poor can experience the joy of gathering around the Word of God to study, follow and share ( mission statement) its message, letting it inform our faith, inspire our hope, and increase our love.
I have a dream that this congregation will experience the power and effectiveness of prayer as we eagerly gather to worship God, confess our sins, and beseech his Spirit to move in our midst (Hymnal 418).
I have a dream that we will learn the profound meaning of Christian community as we serve and care for one another, wash each other’s feet, share in mutual aid, and decide things together.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that members of this church will demonstrate the highest level of personal integrity, will make firm commitments and keep them, and will deal honestly and humbly with each other so that others will know we are Christians by our love as we continue the work of Jesus peacefully, simply, together (CoB tagline).