When I was in my twenties, I used to get so frustrated by older men and women who gave up trying new things. They would just settle. As I would dream about what could be, some would tell me it would never work while others would listen patiently, and yet I could tell in their minds few, very few, would engage with the idea or entertain how to make it a reality with me.
In my first board meeting in the first church where I was the lead pastor, I literally had an elder tell me, ”But Greg, we have never done it that way…” and so discounted the new approach I was suggesting for how we did “church.” I was shocked because I thought it was obvious that the issue was the very reason the church was not reaching new people or seeing lives transformed.
As I have aged, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Most old men and women don’t dream dreams any longer because they simply are worn down, lost their energy, and become “grumpy old men (and women).” This is such a generally accepted fact of life that books and movies have been produced around this theme. It is just the way it is! Or so it seems.
In Acts 2, Peter gives his first sermon on Pentecost. Peter quotes from Joel when he describes what happens to people who are indwelt with the Spirit of God. One of the marks will be that “…old men will dream dreams…”. Why does he say that? I think it is because as people age, they generally give up walking by faith and settle for walking by sight. And we know their sight it is getting pretty bad!
I wrote last week about how often people who define their call by a role can become grumpy old people when they are no longer in that role. However, the problem is more pervasive than just ex-pastors.
As men and women age, they have seen it all. They were passionate young people who had fire in their veins. They tackled injustices and tried to make a difference in the world through their zeal. However, as life happened and relationships failed, their edges got a lot softer. In some ways, this was a good thing. But there is another parallel process that is also taking place; they became more cynical. “They have tried that, and it didn’t work.”
The result of this wearing-down process for most people is that they lose their creative energy. They have no mojo. They give up and simply let life happen. They are carried along by events rather than attempting to engage in a transformative way.
That is what I love about Peter’s description of old men who experience the transforming power of God’s Spirit at work in their lives. They dream dreams again.
This last week I listened to twenty presentations of mostly young Christian entrepreneurs who are launching out on creative ways of serving the world and church in bringing the transformative power of Christ to bear in our culture. There were some pretty “out of the box” kinds of ministries that are being launched. Most were seeking financial, prayer, or participative support.*
Somewhere deep in the recesses of my head, I could hear myself wanting to say, “It won’t work. You will be disappointed, broke, and frustrated because of the struggle…”. But just as quickly as I heard that, I felt the Spirit nudge me to help network with those that I could be of benefit. I needed to encourage them and help them. I needed to dream dreams with them.
I have personally experienced the disappointment and brokenness in life that comes from failed relationships and failed opportunities of impact. I have heard the thoughts that a certain young person has no clue of what is going to happen to them when they launch out into their grand venture. But I also know the power of the Spirit at work in me to keep an expectation to dream dreams. I know the hope that things will work out differently for others than they may have for me. I know the faith that leads me to take steps beyond what I can reasonably accomplish in and through my own efforts. I launched this blog, Thursday Thoughts, as a 68-year-old.
I don’t judge those who no longer dream dreams. I actually pity them. I feel sorry for the fact that their life is lived on a plane of drifting along, blown by the tides of culture. I also know they don’t have access or at least don’t know how to access the transformative power of the Spirit of God working in them. Because once they do, they will walk by faith and not by sight, and then they will dream dreams.
I have worked hard at not growing old before I die. That is not easy. I know of quite a few older men and women who stopped dreaming in their late 30s and died in their 80s. I also know a bunch of cool people who died physically before they stopped dreaming.
One was Mac Rigel. He and I had just had a conversation about some new church he wanted to start the day before he died, well into his 80s. He was driving from an appointment and pulled off the road, and died of a heart attack. He died in the saddle! He is one of my heroes. Sure he dreamed a lot of dreams that never became reality, but he lived by faith and transformed a lot of lives.
That is my prayer for my life.
What are your dreams?