August 31, 2018

Permission to Dream

Come to the European Pastors’ Council (EPC) 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia, and you know you are among friends — friends you have never seen before and quite likely will meet again only after we have passed through the pearly gates.

Friends? As in proper friends?


Honestly, I don’t think so. Not at all.

It’s more like brothers and sisters tied into your life in ways that are infinitely more profound than the bonds of blood alone could ever attain. It is my family, and my identity is confirmed and anchored in every bear hug that shouts, “Hold on to me a little longer! I have missed you so.” It’s in every face-to-face moment of recognition so warm that sparks fly off every shake of the hand.


I’m concerned you might think this is just mushy gushing because of my overemotional reaction to the great sense of occasion afforded by a momentous gathering. I grant you, it may be mushy, and perhaps it is gushing as well. But you know what? I’m OK with that. I can mush and gush side by side with all my other family members and be blessed to boot.

The South-East European Union Conference (SEEUC) welcomed us to Serbia by treating us to a fun and upbeat mix of folk music and dances, the participants dressed in their traditional national costumes.  Those attending appreciated the very Bible-centered greeting from the Serbian deputy speaker of the parliament, Vladimir Marinković, and the warmth of the SEEUC president, Đorđija Trajkovski.

General Conference president Ted Wilson’s keynote address was introduced with an innovative video, Permission to Dream, which led to his key thought, a dream of a biblical and expectant church.

The message lived up to delegates’ expectations. Before the meeting, Zeljko, one of the attendees, stated, “It must be a spiritual meeting.” Milan emphasized that “it needs to be a message relevant to our time.” Oktavian and Marija shared, “We would like to hear something new … something that will help us reach people.” Piotr was looking for Bible-based inspiration.

As Wilson proceeded to share his thoughts, it seemed that he was less concerned about inspiring anyone and more inclined to challenge. By noting the key points of the EPC catchwords — Connect, Inspire, Change — Wilson challenged his audience to take on God’s dream for Europe, and the Trans-European Division in particular.

“Keep your vision focused on God’s mission and God’s dream,” he emphasized, “working through you to reach the people of Europe.”

Wilson said he had chosen two texts — one that focused on the mission God has given us and one to show how excited the apostle Paul gets over preaching the gospel. Paul’s emphasis on the gospel, he noted, is far stronger than the many things he had to say about roles for men, roles for women, and roles for families, or regulations within the church.

Reflecting on God’s dream, Wilson highlighted that Paul had a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble. “Do we need a thorn to prevent our heads from getting so big that we forget God’s mission and dreams for Europe?” he asked.

Wilson emphasized that God is leading this work to connect, inspire, and then change. Citing Romans 10:13-14, he began honing in on what God’s dream is: “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?’” he read.

“Millions of people in the cities of our territories have never heard the gospel, and the expectant news that Jesus is coming soon,” Wilson added.

The last part of Paul’s admonition Wilson cited as a reminder of how we as pastors are called to fulfill God’s dream: “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?”

We are sent to preach the good news and invite people to expect His coming. And through the latter rain and power of the Holy Spirit, we can expect to achieve change in Europe.

That is God’s dream. What is yours?