FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Ministry begins with dreaming but can’t remain there, a Georgia pastor told pastors and other ministers at the Next Level Leadership Conference Sept. 11-13 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Dwight “Ike” Reighard, pastor of North Star Church in Marietta, Ga., spoke of a churchman named Bishop Milton Wright, who insisted at the turn of the 20th century that man was never meant to fly. The assertion fell apart in the face of the accomplishments of Wright’s two sons, Orville and Wilbur, at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
But once a minister has a dream, more must be done if that dream is to come to fruition, Reighard told the nearly 200 participants at the conference sponsored by Southwestern and the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
Reighard cited Habbakuk 2:2-3, noting that God spoke to the prophet and told him, “Record the vision and write it on tablets.”
Reighard urged ministers to follow this command and write down their dreams and their goals to achieve those dreams.
“Dreams are where you want to end up,” he said. “Goals are how to get there.”
Goals are working blueprints, he continued, and every ministry leader needs these to achieve the “artist’s rendering” of the fulfilled dream.
But more than a dream and goals, Reighard said, ministers need to remember that the vision Habbakuk was told to write down was one for an “appointed time.” In asking God to fulfill the dream, Reighard said, Christian leaders need to keep in mind that God can answer one of four ways:
— “No.” “God’s ‘no’ today is God’s ‘no’ tomorrow and forever,” Reighard said.
— “Slow.” Timing is what makes a miracle a miracle, Reighard said, adding that what the world calls a coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.
–“Grow.” Pointing out that this answer comes when someone isn’t ready, Reighard asked the conferees, “Are you ready for answered prayer? Is your life ready?”
–“Go.” And when he does, Reighard said, the goals kick in, moving a dream from a state of inertia and giving it impetus.
But as important as dreams are, Reighard said, there is only one thing that keeps ministers going through the cycle of birth, death and rebirth of dreams — God’s call.
Speaking at a plenary session later in the conference, Reighard spoke of how the Lord had kept him going even after he had seen a dream wither on the vine. Citing Job’s trial and Abram’s long, frustrating wait for the child that God promised, Reighard said that despite all of these difficulties, God still brought good out of bad.
“From the very least, God is going to be the one to bring the very best,” Reighard said.
Reighard was pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., for nearly 20 years when he was asked by Charles Stanley to become pastor at First Baptist Church Atlanta’s north location.
Making that transition was difficult for Reighard, mainly because it was hard for him to let go of the relationships he’d built at New Hope. “The thought of leaving was impossible for me to get set in my mind,” he said.
He went to First Atlanta only to realize less than a year later that he was not where he was supposed to be. It was one of the most difficult times of his life, he said, but he maintained that “whenever you do the will of God, you never fail. You are not in failure mode. Ask Job.”
Other opportunities began to come, but the toughest moment came when New Hope asked him to come back and be their pastor.
“I felt like Dorothy in the ‘Wizard of Oz,'” he said. “I’d been to the Emerald City, I’d met the wizard, and I found it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.”
As Reighard was trying to sort out what to do, his wife asked him what he would do if she and their two daughters were not around to worry about and to do that. After fasting and praying, Reighard was brought to Genesis 15 and God’s promise to Abram that his seed would be like the stars in the sky.
Looking up at the stars, Reighard realized he wanted to start a church from scratch, and as he found the north star, God spoke to his heart, telling him to start a church called “North Star.”
He obeyed. His dream was to have a church that would be the kind of church Jesus would start.
That kind of church would be one doing the will of the Father, and doing the Lord’s will includes reaching the lost, Reighard said.
“If worship is right, evangelism ought to be right,” he said. “Doing the will of God is worship, not just when you sing.”
The church would also be one that seeks to serve.
“If there was a major need in your community, who would people call?” he asked. “If there’s a need, they’ll call Home Depot. They’ll call banks.”
Churches, said Reighard, have become “a joke in most of our communities. We’ve become this cloistered community, and no wonder we don’t impact our culture.”
Christians need to be Christians more than just on Sunday, Reighard said.
“We need to do church every day,” he said. “Something’s going to have to change or we’re going to be in big trouble.”
At North Star, Reighard follows four principles that make up the church’s vision statement:
— To see people the same way Jesus sees them — not as they are, but as they can be.
Too often, he said, the church is the one throwing rocks. “The world knows we’re going to condemn them when they walk through the door.”
— To accept people as they are.
— To love people too much to leave them as they are.
— To touch people the way Jesus touched people, by meeting their needs.
“We can change the world if we meet the needs of people in this world,” he said.
And the biggest need of anyone, he added, is that people need to know Jesus as their Savior.