Rick Warren: Ordinary Leaders, Extraordinary Dreams

Saddleback Church
Saddleback Church (Facebook)

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

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

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?

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Dr. Steve Greene is now sharing stories, teachings, and conversations with guests who lead with love on Love Leads, a new podcast. Listen now.


Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders