“The world has changed. Religious organizations haven’t been nimble enough to change with it.”

That’s the stark observation of Rebekah Simon-Peter, a minister of the United Methodist Church and a leadership development professional who addresses this issue and offers solutions in her newest book, Dream Like Jesus: Deepen Your Faith and Bring the Impossible to Life (Market Square Publishing).

While mainstream congregations are in trouble and formal religious practice is no longer the centerpiece of American life, Simon-Peter, pointing to her personal experience as validation, says, “The age of miracles and transformation is not over! People who are wanting to have a direct experience of the divine know that it is possible. People who want to recover from addiction can see from my life story that it is possible. People who want to deepen their spiritual journey and become someone or something new find that they can.” 

Dream Like Jesus goes beyond the ordinary to explore congregation intelligence from the perspective of how a congregation as a whole operates. Simon-Peter says she wrote the book “for spiritual leaders in the United Methodist Church and beyond: clergy and laity who are passionate about the gospel, yet deeply concerned about the future of the church.”

Known for teaching leaders how to bring out the best in the people who frustrate them the most, Simon-Peter’s work transforms church leaders and the congregations they serve. She recently elaborated on the book and some of its key themes in this Q&A.

Q: How have we gotten to the point where so many people are tuning out congregations, church and religious practices?

A: As I noted, the world has changed and religious organizations haven’t been nimble enough to change with it. Rather than dreaming big dreams of a world that can be, churches have focused more on their own survival. In the book, I say that 100 percent of church decline is due to the lack of a big, bold vision.

Alcoholics Anonymous and other organizations like it have decentralized spiritual authority by granting its members the freedom to discover God for themselves. Churches, on the other hand, seem more intent on distributing certain criteria for ensuring proper belief. I believe people are less interested in that.

Also, the evangelical Christian’s alliance with the political right in the U.S. has given the public at large a skewed sense of what it means to be Christian. Many people do not resonate with that picture of Christian belief. 

Q: How has your own spiritual journey provided light and insight to help others grow and prosper?

A: My journey, including my vivid personal experience with Jesus, has shown people that the age of miracles and transformation is not over! My major life shifts have provided the basis for my teaching, coaching and consulting. I know without a shadow of a doubt that things can change, that God is real and that God is love. That informs everything I do. 

Q: How can leaders infuse more life into their congregations?

A: Develop a big vision for your congregation — one that requires gutsy faith and depends upon the help of God to accomplish. 

Rather than have worship rehearse beliefs, use the time to help people have their very own direct experience of God.

Don’t be afraid to change. Trust that God is with you in the change!

Q: What does it mean to “Dream Like Jesus?”

A: We know from the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus dreamed of an Earth that would reflect all the goodness of heaven. So to dream like Jesus means to have a big, bold vision of what you can accomplish for your community and beyond. It’s the kind of vision that inspires people with its positive vision of the future because it moves beyond the status quo to envision a world that works for everyone! In the book, I talk about the five surprise elements of a Jesus-like dream. It expands assumptions about what is possible. It’s bigger than you are. It scares you. It’s not about the survival of the church but the thriving of the community, and it inspires and unifies.

Dream Like Jesus is now available for purchase. For more on Rebekah, please visit her Author Profile and her website.

 

Looking back over thirty years of recovery from addiction and twenty-five years as a United Methodist pastor, Casper, Wyoming, author, Rebekah Simon-Peter, reflects on the power of spirituality, a surprise vision, and her work coaching church leaders in her latest book, Dream Like Jesus: Deepen Your Faith and Bring the Impossible to Life. The result is an engaging volume which charts a path beyond conventional Christianity. The lessons contained in her DARE model — Dream, Align, Realize, Expand — apply far beyond religious circles. Simon-Peter not only draws on her family roots of Jewish and Christian faith, but also includes reflections on contemporary culture, controversies and leadership, with an engaging mixture of wisdom and wit. Rebekah Simon-Peter is also the author of The Jew Named Jesus (Abingdon Press, 2013), Green Church: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice! (Abingdon Press, 2010), and 7 Simple Steps to Green Your Church (Abingdon Press, 2010). A nationally-recognized inspirational speaker, in her spare time, Simon-Peter enjoys gardening and hiking the wilds of Wyoming with her husband, Jerry, and two four-legged friends.