Rick Warren: 8 Steps to Dreaming Bigger for God

(Unsplash/Elijah Hiett)

Everybody needs a dream. In fact, God wired you to dream dreams, and from Joseph to Daniel to Peter, the Bible is filled with stories of God giving his people great dreams.

Whenever you first got involved in ministry, you probably started with a big dream. Unfortunately, as you get into that ministry, your dreams can shrink to the size of the situation.

If you're going to be involved in ministry, you've got to continue to be a dreamer. You've got to have faith in what God can do through your ministry. The Bible says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6a). Faith begins with catching a dream, a vision.

When I started Saddleback, I started with a dream. In fact, at the very first Saddleback trial service, I shared that dream with the 60 people in the room. I shared a bold dream that day—a dream of a church of 20,000 people ministering in Orange County and around the world, a dream of a campus that would be a refuge for the hurting, depressed, frustrated and confused in our community, and a dream of sharing the Good News with hundreds of thousands of people.

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When I stood up and shared that with 60 people whom I'd never seen before in my life, there were people who said, "Fat chance! How in the world will 60 people grow to be a church of that size? How are we ever going to get land in the Saddleback Valley at the price that it costs?" Yet nearly 40 years later, we've reached those goals. In the years I've pastored this church, I never doubted that we would. Not once. I didn't know when it would happen—but I knew it would. Why? That dream was from God.

Then, in April of 2005, at Saddleback's 25th anniversary, I shared a new dream for Saddleback Church and the growing Purpose Driven network of churches. I told those gathered about the PEACE Plan, my dream for mobilizing a billion Christians to tackle the global giants of spiritual lostness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy. The first dream carried Saddleback for the first 25 years; this one will carry it for the next 25. I'm just as sure about this dream as I was the first one.

Every person, every ministry and every church needs a dream. If you're not dreaming, you're dying. I don't believe there's any such thing as a great person. I believe there are only ordinary people committed to great dreams. When an ordinary person is committed to a great dream, it makes that person a great person. If you want to be healthy, you've got to have a dream to live for.

Maybe you've been in ministry for so long that you've forgotten how to dream. Or maybe you're just stepping into ministry and you've never spent the time contemplating what God might want to do through your life. Or maybe you're somewhere in between.

Regardless, here are eight steps to help you find God's dream for your life. They are the same steps I went through in developing God's dream for Saddleback.

1. Open your mind to God.

If you're going to do this, you've got to be quiet before the Lord. Schedule times of silence, of solitude. For many of you, God can't give you a dream because you won't sit down and be quiet before him. You start by getting God's perspective on your life.

2. Do some research.

You don't make decisions out of ignorance. This is a step that many people ignore when they get a dream. They pray about it, but then don't go out and get any facts. The Bible says that it's foolish just to step out without doing any research (see Prov. 18:13). Think before you act. Read books, go to conferences, visit other churches—but get the facts.

3. Start asking for advice.

Remember, it's better to admit your ignorance than to prove it by your experience. You're going to appear foolish anyway if you don't get the right advice. So go ahead and ask. Humble yourself. Be teachable. Leaders are learners.

4. Establish some priorities.

You don't have time to do everything, so you have to learn the difference between the important and the urgent, the helpful and the life-changing, and being efficient and being effective. Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. You need to focus on doing the right things. When you do this, you're developing a plan to achieve your dreams—and that's essential.

5. Evaluate the cost.

This is what's called a calculated risk. Proverbs 20:25 says, "It is a snare to the man who dedicates that which is holy, and after the vows to make inquiry." You need to ask yourself three questions when you're planning out a dream:

  • Is it necessary? (Can I reach my goal another way?)
  • What will it cost? (What's the price tag—in terms of time, energy, money and reputation?)
  • Is it worth it? (That's the most important question.)

After I'd gotten a dream for Saddleback Church, I then had to ask myself the question, "Is this worth my life?" And I came to the conclusion, "Absolutely!" It's worth every ounce of energy I can give it. We're talking about eternal matters here.

6. Plan for problems.

Your plan needs to account for problems. Things are going to go wrong. Are you ready when they do? Proverbs 27:12 (TLB) says, "A sensible man watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences." Ask yourself, "What can go wrong with this dream?" And, "What will happen if it does?" That's not being pessimistic. It's just being sensible.

7. Be willing to take risks.

Most people won't take ministry risks because they don't want to face their fears. Proverbs 29:25 (TLB) says, "Fear of man is a dangerous trap, but to trust in God means safety." We hate to admit it when we're afraid. God says to go ahead and admit it. Fear is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of humanity.

But here's the secret to stepping beyond your fears—know who gave you the dream. Proverbs 14:26 (GNT) says, "Reverence for the Lord gives confidence and security." When you know your dream is from God, it gives you confidence. It gives you the security to keep on moving toward it. If you know where your dream comes from, you won't care what the critics say. You won't let people tell you why it can't happen. Laws can be changed. Money can be raised. What matters is that God has said to do it.

8. Do it now.

There comes a point of decision where you've got to stop talking and start acting. You've got to begin. Once you've decided it's worth the risk, you need to go for it. There's got to come a point in your life when you say, "God's called me to do this. I'm going for it."

It doesn't cost anything to dream. Dream big dreams for your ministry. Everything that is possible now in our society was impossible at one point: cars, computers, planes, microwave ovens, the internet. Today's impossibilities are tomorrow's miracles.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global internet community for pastors.

This article originally appeared at pastors.com.

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