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The Giants in the Way of God’s Dream for Your Church (Part One)

God has a dream for your church. 

I’ve noticed through the years that the common denominator in every growing church, regardless of denomination or cultural context, is leadership that is not afraid to believe God. 

It’s the faith factor. Nothing happens in a church until someone dreams.

But just because God gives your church a dream doesn’t mean you won’t hit roadblocks along the way. David is a great example of this. Right after Samuel anointed him, David faced a major roadblock—a literal giant. Before he would ever lead Israel, before he even endured Saul’s harassment, David had to face one of the fiercest warriors of his time.

But before David faced Goliath, he had already battled giants that tried to derail what God wanted to do in his life. They are the same four giants that your church must defeat before God’s dream for you becomes a reality.  

1. Delay.

God won’t fulfill his dream for your church instantly. God may give your church a dream in a day, but he won’t complete it in 24 hours. It’ll take years.

David’s dad held him back because he didn’t think David was old enough or experienced enough to be king. 

People will try to hold your church back from what God wants to do in your midst, too. Maybe it’s the critics who have a different dream for your church than God does. They have a different plan and don’t intend to let the dream come to fruition. They may say nothing specific, but they constantly dig their heels in as you move forward.

Often, it’s people who love you and love the church that hold the dream back the most. David’s dad wasn’t maliciously trying to hold his son back from becoming king. But Jesse knew he wouldn’t just lose a son; he’d lose a worker. 

God has a plan for your church, but so does everyone else. When God’s plan contradicts somebody else’s plan, there will be a delay.

2. Discouragement.

When you go after God’s dream for your church, it will scare everyone around you. No one will think you can do it.

It won’t be too dissimilar to the climate of fear Goliath created in Israel. Everyone had concluded that the Israelites would lose any battle with Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:11 says that Saul and the Israelites “were gripped with fear” (GWT).

Remember this when fear sets in: Conventional wisdom is often wrong. Just ask Goliath. Sometimes the solution comes from a place where no one is even looking. You’ll often need a fresh set of eyes to see it, though. 

If you listen to the naysayers long enough, discouragement will be inevitable. Instead, teach your church to listen to the voice of God, not the voice of fear.

3. Disapproval.

Most leaders are afraid of rejection, so they don’t chase God’s dream for their church. We want to be liked by everyone, particularly those we lead.

But the truth is, if you go after God’s dream for your church, not everyone will like you. Some—maybe many—will disapprove. 

David’s own brother questioned him, saying,

“What are you doing around here anyway? What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”

1 Samuel 17:28 NLT

David’s brother didn’t approve of God’s dream for David’s life. 

I’ll never forget years ago when we bought the land where Saddleback sits today. When word got out in our community that we wanted to buy 120 acres in Orange County, critics started coming after us. They kept asking, “Who does that little church think they are?” I clarified the issue with the church that weekend. It wasn’t about who we thought we were. It was about who we thought God was. 

I decided a long time ago that the approval of God was more important than the approval of others.

It’s none of my business what others think of me. It’s my business what God thinks of me.

4. Doubt.

When others disapprove of what you’re doing, you’ll be tempted to doubt yourself. You’ll start wondering, “Can our church really do what God is calling us to do?”

Often those doubts come when we hear the so-called experts express doubts about what the Lord is saying. In 1 Samuel 17:33, David heard from a leading expert in warfare—King Saul himself—that he couldn’t take on Goliath. 

But King Saul was wrong. The experts are often wrong. I grew up in California, but I went to seminary in Texas. While I was in seminary, God called me to plant a church in Southern California. When I told one of the leading church-planting experts in Texas what God was telling me to do, he thought I was crazy. He said I would go to California and no one would ever hear from me again.

When we talked 20 years later, he told me those words were the dumbest thing he ever said. 

When you know what God is calling your church to do, don’t let the so-called experts around you make you doubt his call.

We all face these same four giants, but they’re not insurmountable. Next week, I’ll share four ways David overcame them—and how you can as well.

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