Dreams as a Mission Strategy: Let’s Ask Questions
For many years now I’ve been concerned with what appears to be a growing strategy of missions in difficult areas: praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ in the lives of the unreached through dreams and visions. This is not a new strategy by any means. In 1997, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (then called the Foreign Mission Board) wrote about a particular wave of these revelations. The article states that, “On that evening in 1983, villagers later testified, the Holy Spirit moved from house to house, revealing himself through dreams, visions and angelic visitations” [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][emphasis mine]. In the same article, Randy Sprinkle of the Prayer Strategy Office of the FMB at that time argued that, “We can’t tell him [God] how he can and can’t do things…If he chooses to do it in what to our Western minds is an unusual or mysterious way such as dreams or visions or angels, the Scriptures are full of examples of those.” Are we telling God how to do His business? Are the Scriptures full of examples of dreams, visions, and angelic visitations? Are those applicable today? More about this in a moment. The promotion of dreams, visions, and angelic visitations as an evangelism tool and prayer strategy is not a rare occurrence with the International Mission Board. A quick internet search found this article, and this one, and this one, and another one, and yet another one, and far more than you would care to read. I assume (though have not researched it), that this is not just an IMB/SBC strategy, but that the IMB is simply displaying the consensus of current missiology. CBN recently reported about North African Muslims who were “see the appearance and the presence of God appear to them in reality, like a vision.” This vision is so real that some, “carry on a conversation. It’s not just a light that appears.”
As Randy Sprinkle said the 1997, “the Scriptures are full of examples” of dreams, visions, an angelic visitations. However, when these dreams, visions, and angelic visitations are studied carefully, there is scant evidence that God ever used a dream, vision, or angelic visitation being used to reveal Christ to the lost. On a number of occasions dreams, visions and visitations were used to give instruction to one who was receiving instruction for a specific task (the Macedonian vision, for example). In Acts 10, a God-fearing gentile named Cornelius had a vision that instructed him to Peter’s location in Joppa for further instruction. This is probably the Biblical example to what we are told to celebrate on the mission field today. In other examples, Saul received a visitation from Christ Himself, and Ananias received a vision to go to Paul. One would want to ask if these visions are meant to be normative in the Christian experience. To make such a claim would be far-fetched, it seems to me. Visions were rare, they were used to communicate God’s specific purposes for an individual, they were never an evangelistic strategy. Furthermore, a number of Scriptures point out the inherent danger of dreams and visions as a basis of instruction from God (Deuteronomy 13:1, Ezekiel 13:1-9, Colossians 2:18-19).
Why Stop with Visions?
If we are praising and praying for the evangelism of dreams, visions, and visitations, why should we stop there? A dream can often be unclear, “fuzzy,” and even doubtful. Wouldn’t a verbal and audible voice be better? If not an audible voice, what about a mysterious hand that writes words on the wall? After all, God has used these before? Who are we to “tell God how He can and cannot do things?”
Why Stop with Evangelism?
If God is calling people to Him through dreams in far-away, unreached lands, why don’t we pray for Him to do the same in our land? Let’s quit bemoaning the increased secularism of our nation and ask God to wake people up from their sleep, literally? And why just use this method in evangelism? The mission field is white unto harvest and the workers are few. If God called Paul to Macedonia through a vision, can’t He call people to the 10/40 window today using visions? And should we be critical of those like Oral Roberts who received his vision of a million dollars given to his ministry? Do we really want to put God in a box?
Rather than continue with these far-fetched schemes, let’s look at what the Bible says about evangelism and world missions. Fortunately, the Bible is clear:
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,Who bring glad tidings of good things!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:14-17, NKJV)
What our world needs is evangelists who preach the Word of God and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ with clarity. Let’s throw out any ideas of “share the Gospel always, and when necessary, use words.” We will realize that words are essential to the sharing of the Gospel, and that it is “by the foolishness of preaching” that people are saved. Let’s not waste our breath or our thoughts promoting dreams and visions, and let’s use every means necessary to put preachers of the Word on the mission field to proclaim the Gospel clearly and verbally.
Here are some other verses to consider:
What are your thoughts?