In 1999, when I graduated from seminary and prepared to take my first pastorate, there was far more that I didn’t know than I did.
About all I really knew at the time was that God had called me to lead a church and that I deeply desired to make a difference. What I was unsure of was exactly how to do that!
I was asked to pastor a small church on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that had gone through 15 years of plateau followed by a leadership implosion that put the church through a near death experience. They had about 35 people, no pastor, no visitors, and almost no children.
After being there for just a few months, I attended two powerful conferences that totally changed the trajectory of our church.
The first was a pastors conference where the speaker challenged us to dream God’s dream for our church. He said, “If you could lead the church of your dreams, what would it look like?”
I left that conference with my heart pounding and my head spinning. On the airplane ride home I pulled out a piece of paper and began feverishly writing down several, “I dream of a church…” statements.
The second conference that inspired me was Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church conference. He provided the systems and practical tools that we have used over the last 18 years to turn the dream into a reality.
Combining the dream God gave me for a healthy new testament church with the practical systems of Purpose Driven, I crafted our “DREAM” into an acrostic of five statements that sum up our values and strategies.
Here’s our D.R.E.A.M.
D – DESIGN weekend services that the unchurched love to attend.
We know that every weekend is someone’s first and we want them to keep coming back. We do this by focusing on wowing our guests with friendliness, teaching the Bible with relevance, and using music as a cultural bridge. Because of this we have baptized over 1,800 people since the dream began!
R – REACH the hurting and add them into the Family
We believe that the average American family is facing incredible challenges as never before. Churches need to focus on creative ways to bring hope and healing to hearts and homes. We do this by defining broken families as our target, investing heavily in world class children’s and youth ministries, and offering supportive ministries for every member of the family. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Real ministries aimed at bringing real healing to real lives has forever changed our church.
E – ENGAGE people in spiritual growth through CLASSes and community
Our motto is, “God wants you to grow up before you go up!” We help people grow by teaching spiritual habits in our CLASSes and then encourage them to practice these habits in small groups. People aren’t looking for a friendly church, they’re looking for friends. Small groups are the most powerful tool for fellowship and discipleship hands down. The Christian life isn’t just about believing, it’s also about belonging. Using simple on-ramps we have been able to connect over 80% of our weekend attenders into a small group!
A – ACTIVATE our core in ministry and leadership
Now, more than ever, people are looking for a way to give back. They want to use their time, talents and treasure to make a real difference. In most churches, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. At Oak Ridge over 50% of our members give their lives away using their God given SHAPE in a weekly ministry that matters.
M – MOBILIZE our members to impact the world
Churches, not charities, are called to be on the front lines engaging people in the most important mission on planet earth – bringing the gospel to every human being on the planet. We believe the best way to do this is to partner with churches across the globe and then help them accomplish their dream in their community. Today, we have mobilized over 1,000 members to impact their community, country and the entire world through intentional partnerships and we’re just getting started!
We DREAM of 10,000 lives changed by the love of Jesus Christ and we are crazy enough to believe that the God who raised this church from the dead, and performed miracles in our midst, can and will do it for His glory through any church that begins to DREAM God sized dreams!
Our passion is to assist other churches to discover God’s dream for their church. That’s why we host an annual two day DREAM Church Conference where we share practical ways to grow a healthy vibrant church.
That’s our DREAM.
So, what’s your dream for your church?