By Jeremy Linneman
Jeremy Linneman is lead pastor of Trinity Community Church, a church he planted in Columbia, Missouri. Prior to planting Trinity, he was a staff pastor of Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, for seven years. He is author of Life-Giving Groups: “How-To” Grow Healthy, Multiplying Community Groups (Sojourn Network, 2017). Jeremy and his wife, Jessie, have three sons and spend most of their free time outdoors.
One of the great Christian writers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, described something he called the “wish-dream.”
He wrote Life Together in German, and for lack of a better word, his original English translators came up with the phrase “wish-dream.”
The wish-dream is the ideal of life as we think it should be, a life of happiness and meaning and satisfaction. It’s a life without pain, without setbacks, without conflict, without suffering.
In the wish-dream, our work is always meaningful and satisfying. In the wish-dream, our friends never let us down. In the wish-dream, marriage is always a joy, and children are consistently sweet and affordable
But Bonhoeffer wasn’t writing of the wish-dream of work ambition or family happiness, he was writing of the ideals we lay upon our Christian friends and communities. He writes:
Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams…
Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.
We are all familiar with the wish-dream of Christian community, either because we’re still wondering why it isn’t coming true, or because we can think back to the exact time and place when it died… and we finally buried it beneath six feet of cold dark earth.
What we most need is not a grand vision for community, but a gritty, committed fidelity to our actual community.
Life is full of pain, setbacks, conflict, and suffering. But the good news is that we don’t have to do it alone.
As I wrote last time, true belonging is being fully known and fully loved by God. We were never meant to live within a wish-dream, and we were never meant to carry the full weight of life alone.
We are relational beings, and we need one another. Ours is a broken, imperfect world, and we will face much trouble and hardship. That’s why we shouldn’t wait for a perfect set of relationships, friends, community, or church. We need the actual, real-life community already around us.