In 1974, on the 150th anniversary of the dedication of All Souls Church in London, John Stott shared his dream for the church, focusing on five elements of faithfulness that would be for the glory of God and the good of the world. Riffing on Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech directed to the injustices of American society, Stott painted an inspiring picture of the church at its best.

In a time of upheaval, when the church’s weaknesses and sins have been exposed, it’s good to remind ourselves what the church has been and can still be when we’re marked by faith, hope, and love. Here is Stott’s fivefold dream for the church, as later published in The Living Church.

Biblical Church

I have a dream of a church which is a biblical church—
which is loyal in every particular to the revelation of God in Scripture,

whose pastors expound Scripture with integrity and relevance,
and so seek to present every member mature in Christ,

whose people love the word of God,
and adorn it with an obedient and Christ-like life,

which is preserved from all unbiblical emphases,
whose whole life manifests the health and beauty of biblical balance.

I have a dream of a biblical church.

Worshipping Church

I have a dream of a church which is a worshipping church—

whose people come together to meet God and worship him,
who know God is always in their midst
and who bow down before him in great humility,

who regularly frequent the table of the Lord Jesus,
to celebrate his mighty act of redemption on the cross,

who enrich the worship with their musical skills,
who believe in prayer and lay hold of God in prayer,

whose worship is expressed not in Sunday services and prayer gatherings only
but also in their homes, their weekday work and the common things of life.

I have a dream of a worshipping church.

Caring Church

I have a dream of a church which is a caring church—
whose congregation is drawn from many races, nations, ages and social backgrounds,
and exhibits the unity and diversity of the family of God,

whose fellowship is warm and welcoming,
and never marred by anger, selfishness, jealousy or pride,

whose members love one another with a pure heart fervently,
forbearing one another, forgiving one another, and bearing one another’s burdens,

which offers friendship to the lonely, support to the weak,
and acceptance to those who are despised and rejected by society,

whose love spills over to the world outside—
attractive, infectious, irresistible, the love of God himself.

I have a dream of a caring church.

Serving Church

I have a dream of a church which is a serving church—
which has seen Christ as the Servant
and has heard his call to be a servant too,

which is delivered from self-interest, turned inside out,
and giving itself selflessly to the service of others,

whose members obey Christ’s command to live in the world,
to permeate secular society, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world,

whose people share the good news of Jesus
simply, naturally and enthusiastically with their friends,

which diligently serves its own parish, residents and workers,
families and single people, nationals and immigrants, old folk and little children,

which is alert to the changing needs of society,
sensitive and flexible enough to keep adapting its program to serve more usefully,

which has a global vision
and is constantly challenging its young people to give their lives in service,
and constantly sending its people out to serve.

I have a dream of a serving church.

Expectant Church

I have a dream of a church which is an expectant church—

whose members can never settle down in material affluence or comfort,
because they remember that they are strangers and pilgrims on earth,

which is all the more faithful and active
because it is waiting and looking for its Lord to return,

which keeps the flame of the Christian hope burning brightly
in a dark, despairing world,

which on the day of Christ will not shrink from him in shame,
but rise up joyfully to greet him.

I have a dream of an expectant church.

Such is my dream of a living church. May all of us share this dream, and under God may the dream come true!

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