Fifty-two years ago, Martin Luther King Jnr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington and shared a dream so powerful that we still look to it as one of the greatest examples of the power of vision.
I love MLK’s ‘dream’ speech. Every time I read it or listen to it I get a lump in my throat. But a part of me despairs. When it comes to inspiring vision we shouldn’t have to delve back 50 years and cross to another continent. I dream of a day when the phrase ‘crisis in leadership’ isn’t banded about so readily. I dream of a day when the UK and Ireland is overflowing with local visionaries who articulate a better future for their community that inspires people around them to action. Local visionaries who lead the way by living that better future out themselves, no matter what the cost.
Like Cam Stewart in his article, I want to see us being ‘pro’ hope, instead of ‘anti’ everything.
How do we get there? Is it an impossible dream? No. We may tend to shoot anyone who puts their head above the parapet and be quicker to find fault than ask ‘why not?’ But no obstacle is insurmountable. After all, even faith as small as a mustard seed can still move mountains.
So what can we do?
- Learn to be possibility thinkers
Instead of seeing why things won’t work, let’s be people who learn to be possibility thinkers. When we are tempted to complain, let’s stop for a moment and look for the positive perspective. Instead of complaining about our politicians, for example, let’s begin to think about what politicians who truly served the needs of the most vulnerable might look like. How would a good politician act towards other parties? How would they listen to and serve their constituents? What can we do to encourage that behaviour? Who among us needs to step up and begin to try to model what we want to see? Let’s think about how can we inspire change.
Change comes far more readily when the positive perspective of what could be is articulated.
- Look deep inside
What we believe shapes how we see and what we see. As Christians, our theology is important. We need to wrestle with who God is and what He is doing in the world. We need to learn to hold things in the appropriate tension, like human brokenness with being image-bearers. If we believe in a God who is making everything new, who through Jesus is reconciling all of creation back to Himself, and who has given us all authority on earth and in heaven, then we will be full of hope and expect change.
When we look deep inside and examine where we find our identity, it changes how we see the world. When we see ourselves as dearly loved sons and daughters, worth so much that Jesus gave his all to bring us into the family, it begins to free us from finding our value in making ourselves look good, and others look small. It frees us to see the dignity and value in those around us. It frees us to dream about what they could be.
- Get practical and get tangible
MLK’s vision endures and is so powerful because it’s vivid and tangible. He painted powerful pictures that we can see clearly. To be a visionary isn’t to have your head stuck in the clouds – disconnected from reality. It’s to describe a better future in ways that can be easily grasped. Vision is about seeing clearly.
Henry Ford did it when he described a future where the motor car was so affordable that every family could have one, making horses redundant as a mode of transport.
Isaiah did it describing the coming kingdom, where swords will be beaten into ploughshares.
What would a better future look like where you are? Or more accurately, what would the kingdom of God look like if it became reality in your community/sphere of influence?
What would change? How would people behave and treat each other?
I dream of cities and towns where every young person has older role models who believe in them, and give them the courage to take risks. Where every teenager has the opportunity to flourish, no matter what area of the city they grow up in. Where young people help the elderly with their shopping and their gardens. Where dealing drugs is no longer seen as the best way to earn money. Where old people feel safe and neighbours spend time in each others houses laughing, crying and sharing life together.
What’s your dream?