A Large Gospel, A Large Vision

On a recent foray into western Pennsylvania, I taught a Perspectives class at Crossroads United Methodist Church in Upper St. Clair, PA. I knew this denomination has struggled with doctrinal purity, so my expectations were low. Wow, was I wrong!

Steve Cordle is the pastor of Crossroads, a humble and interesting person. I was pleasantly surprised after meeting Steve and spending a little time with him. Steve “planted” Crossroads in 1991. He is a rigorous and thoroughgoing evangelical who decided way back in his pre-seminary days to align himself with the United Methodist Church. Now, after 26 years at Crossroads, the church has four satellite campuses planted in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

At the Christmas service in 2016, the combined attendance at the five congregations was a whopping 4,000 people. While I don’t worship at the shrine of large numbers, that is nevertheless rather impressive and a cause for rejoicing.

But that’s not all. Steve and his wife Linda were my overnight hosts that evening. As we ate breakfast the next morning, Steve shared with me his plan to plant 100 churches in America, Europe, and Madagascar. At first I was wary of such an audacious claim, but I found myself humbled as I listened and learned.

Scripture declares: “Where there is no (prophetic) vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18). This is a good reminder that genuine vision comes from God and is best discerned by immersion in the Bible to safeguard our minds and emotions from flights of fancy. I could tell that Steve’s vision didn’t come from eating too much pizza before bedtime. He obviously loves Jesus and is a man of prayer and Scripture. And he has invested careful thought, research, and study in the field of church planting.

In obedience to this vision, last year Steve launched a ministry called “A1.8 Movement” (for Acts 1:8) to facilitate this effort. This ministry is designed to produce “church planters” by training and coaching them to launch out and see the Church spread around the world. Steve and his team have made several exploratory trips to Madagascar and are well on their way to establishing a number of vibrant congregations that bring honor to Jesus.

This vision of Steve’s is breath-taking and a good reminder of the importance of God’s people envisioning big things. Last month we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. He is perhaps most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech. We celebrate his life by telling people of all ages, gender, and ethnicity to dream big.

But do all of us budding missiologists actually dream big? I had to ask myself that question as I listened to Steve. My default excuse (“I’m too old to dream”) suddenly seemed lame as I considered this man, not that much younger than me, declaring his confident vision.

Little children are encouraged to dream about what they want to be when they grow up. Why do we stop dreaming when we become adults? Has God nothing left for us to aspire to?

In 1857, a man named Jeremiah Lanphier prayed a simple prayer: “Lord, what would you have me to do?” He sensed God prompting him to start a noon-time prayer meeting for business men in New York City. This vision may or may not seem large to us. But this prayer meeting was the catalyst for what became The Great Awakening as similar prayer meetings spread to other major cities in the USA.

What vision might God have for us if we would just say every day: “Lord, what would you have me to do?”