Saddleback Church
Saddleback Church (Facebook)

Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing his reflections and practical insights as a ministry leader on Greenelines, a new podcast. Listen at

Have you ever stopped to think that our ability to dream is a God-given gift? God has given us the power to be creative, to dream, to visualize, to plan. It is a powerful force that can be used for either good or evil.

Napoleon said, “Imagination rules the world.” Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Every great achievement in ministry or any other area of life happened because somebody dared to dream. I firmly believe that nothing starts happening until somebody starts dreaming.

In church leadership you often start off with big dreams, but as you get into the hard work of ministering, your dreams shrink to the size of the situation. Tragically, circumstances tend to shrink our dreams. So periodically, we need to be stretched. We need to learn how to dream bigger.

The history of Saddleback Church is a testimony to the power of a God-given dream. Our vision was crafted from the very first message I preached at Saddleback on March 30, 1980. We had 60 people in a trial-run service, at which I described our church vision as being a dream that included:

  • Sharing the gospel with hundreds of thousands of residents in South Orange County
  • Twenty thousand members growing together in spiritual maturity through Bible studies, seminars, retreats and fellowships
  • Sending out hundreds of career missionaries and church workers all around the world 
  • Sending out our members by the thousands on short-term projects to every continent
  • Starting at least one new daughter church a year
  • Fifty acres of land on which we’d build a regional church for our community with beautiful yet efficient facilities

When I shared that with approximately 60 people whom I’d never seen before in my life at the very first service, some of them 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?” and so on. Amazingly, we surpassed that initial God-sized dream a long time ago, and we’re still growing.

Great things can emerge from small, humble beginnings when God is in the middle of them. But you’ve got to start with a dream. If you’re going to lead a church, you must be a dreamer.

The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Faith begins with stretching your imagination. It begins with visualizing the invisible. We cannot accomplish the impossible until we first see the invisible. Faith begins with catching a dream, a vision. It is “perceiving as real what is not revealed to the senses” (Heb. 11:1, AMP).

William Carey was the first modern missionary. When no one else was going around the world, Carey felt called to leave his home in England and go to Burma. Everybody who knew him told him he was crazy. But Carey boarded a boat and left for Southeast Asia, and the rest is history. His words have guided me through life: “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.” 

Everybody needs a dream for life, and every pastor needs a dream for the flock. It is a psychological necessity. If you’re not dreaming, if you don’t have a goal for life, if you don’t have a dream, if you don’t have a vision, you’re dying. We develop our dreams, and then our dreams develop us. I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a great person or a great pastor. I believe there are only ordinary people and ordinary leaders committed to extraordinary dreams. When an ordinary person is committed to a great, God-inspired dream, it makes that person a great person. 

If you want to be healthy, you’ve got to have a dream to live for, and God expects you to use your imagination. Don’t simply borrow the dream of another leader, but don’t fail to let others inspire you as you seek the dream God has for your ministry.

Church leader, keep dreaming. Decide today that once you start, you’re going “all in” and you’re committing the very life you live to seeing the dream become reality!

Rick Warren founded Saddleback Church, one of America’s most influential congregations, and the PEACE Plan, which networks more than 400,000 churches globally to solve the world’s biggest problems. He is the author of several books, including his most recent title, What On Earth Am I Here For?

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Explorers require significant input.

    How to Receive Clarity When Torn Between Choices

    Decision making is risky without guidance from the Holy Spirit.

  • Churches with less than 100 members possess a sense of potential that is alluring.

    The Great Value of Churches With Under 100 Members

    God can and does use small churches in significant ways to advance His Kingdom.

  • Lyndon Johnson

    63-Year-Old Law Still 'Threatens' Churches, Pastors

    Read why this law is so dangerous to the kingdom culture.

  • Local congregations are called to become Christ-like in their methodology, mission and essence.

    10 Traits of the Jesus-Driven Church

    If we attempt to walk in these, we will leave a powerful imprint on the world around us.

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Do you have the proper training to be a soldier in God's army?

    The Training You Need as a Soldier in God's Army

    We are in already in a war. Let us enter the fight as fully trained soldiers with the full armor ...

  • A new path is opening now.

    Prophecy: The Lord Is Opening Doors for Kingdom-Minded Businesses

    Find out how to activate this prophetic word of increase in your company.

  • Greeter ministry

    5 Common Greeter Mistakes to Correct in the New Year

    Like those involved in any other ministry, greeters can get in a rut.

  • Saddleback Church

    One Clear-Cut Sign Your Church Is Mature and Healthy

    A church's health is measured by its obedience to this important mandate, not by its seating ...

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders