Sunday, April 10, 2016

Journey with Joseph 1 - "The Dreamer"

Fresh Expressions is a Christian movement that began in the UK and has moved to North America, asking the question, “What if we rethink church?” Typically, we think of church as a group of Christians that comes together on Sunday mornings and/or Wednesday nights for music, teaching, preaching, prayer, and an offering. Defined this way, church has a very limited appeal these days. Just as Christianity is growing in the East, Westerners are leaving the church in droves. So Fresh Expressions asks, “How can we envision church in a different way? How can we take church outside the walls of the church building so that people who might never come to church can still have church?”

As a result of this kind of thinking, Philip Roderick in the Diocese of Oxford, England founded Contemplative Fire, attracting Christians and unchurched people to experience Christ through meditation, drumming circles, candles, anointing with oil, and chanting.[i] In Franklinton, Ohio, Jed Dearing leads Confluence, a ministry that offers church on the street to homeless people, helps people fix their bikes so they can get around town, and operates an urban farm so people can grow fresh food.[ii] In Red Oak, Virginia, Jane and Mike Lyon worked with Warren Weston, owner of a country store, to offer church to the group of men that gathered every Sunday morning to swap stories and drink coffee.[iii] As a result of thinking outside the box, many have come to Christ. Because of dreamers, lives are changed. I pray that you’ll be one of those dreamers in your community, that you’ll ask big question: “What if?”

In the book of Genesis, we read about a dreamer who asked the question, “What if?” Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at Joseph’s story. We’ll see how this question led to the salvation of more than one nation. We’ll see how this question caused conflict, but how God triumphed and made great things happen. Not all of Joseph’s story is pleasant. Some of it is downright painful—just like our own lives. But just as we see the hand of God throughout Joseph’s story, we’ll come to see God’s hand leading us as we ask the question, “What if?”

Many know the story of the teenager who was his father’s favorite of 12 brothers. That favoritism was cemented when Jacob (Israel) gave Joseph a “coat of many colors” (which may be a mistranslation of an ornamented ankle-length or long-sleeved tunic). It wasn’t just that his brothers resented his princely garment—they resented the favoritism that it represented. They resented the fact that their father was preferring the next-to-youngest brother, and choosing him as the heir apparent and successor to the priesthood.
Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Please listen to this dream which I have had; 7 for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
9 Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind (Genesis 37:5-11 NASB).

Just as God gives all believers spiritual gifts, God gave Joseph the remarkable ability to have prophetic dreams. We need dreamers to cast a vision for God’s people. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Israel’s descendants needed someone who would take the lead and seek God’s way for the people. A visionary like Joseph was just what they needed. The problem was that Joseph didn’t understand how to communicate that vision in a way that would inspire rather than enrage his brothers. Maybe he could have found a way to generate cooperation so that his brothers would buy into his vision. Or, possibly he could have held his dreams close to the chest and simply acted on them when he could, to bring them to fruition. Instead, he let his pride get in the way and his brothers failed to receive his vision.

Has God given you a vision for your church? Do you have dreams for ministry in your community? God’s people need visionaries to inspire and lead. But the church also needs everyone to exercise all of their spiritual gifts to make things happen. Some are big-picture dreamers, while others are administrators and others are givers and others are laborers. 1 Corinthians 12 (among other passages) says that it takes a team of people, all working together, to fulfill the dream God gives God’s people. In Acts 2:17 (ESV), Peter (quoting Joel) says, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” God gives His Spirit to young and old, men and women, so that working together, dreams and visions can be accomplished. I pray that God will give you a vision, that you’ll be part of a team, and that your church will be able to rethink church so that many will be blessed.

[i] Fresh Expressions: Contemplative Fire.  2009.  April 8, 2016.
[ii] Fresh Expressions: Franklinton Community.  April 8, 2016.
[iii] “Biscuits and Bible: Fresh Expressions in a Country Store.”  June 20, 2012.  April 8, 2016.

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