Dreaming small changes lives

An interview with Josh and Becca Wilson

February 19, 2020

It's visiting the widow down the street

Or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs

These simple moments change the world

Of course, there's nothing wrong with bigger dreams

Just don't miss the minutes on your way, your bigger things, no

'Cause these simple moments change the world.

So dream small.

“Dream Small” by Josh Wilson

Dream Small. A profound challenge amidst a culture that screams at us to dream big, defining success and happiness by metrics of power and significance. When I heard these lyrics by my friend and neighbor Josh Wilson for the first time, I was struck by what a balm they were to my weary soul. I so often unconsciously buy into the lie that I should be discontented with the day in, day out, ordinary life I live. But Josh’s words are the essence of the gospel message. God doesn’t ask us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and achieve big dreams in order to be loved and saved. Quite the opposite. He asks us to admit our lowly position, our need for a savior, and watch as he brings significance from our insignificant lives.  

What I love most about Josh’s lyrics is how well they describe the life that he and his wife, Becca, lead. They live out Jesus’ call to love your neighbor in simple yet profound ways everyday. I asked my friends to share a little bit about what “dreaming small” looks like to them and how they do that in their day-to-day lives. 

Palmer Williams: Josh, you sing about “Dreaming Small,” a powerful and countercultural sentiment today. What practical ways does this work itself out in your marriage and family?

Josh Wilson: When I sat down to write what became “Dream Small,” I intended to write about a big idea. The more I thought about my own life, though, the more I realized that there wasn’t anything particularly extraordinary about my life. I’m just a normal person, but I began to realize that normal isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even our ordinary lives can be extraordinary if we love intentionally, even in the little moments.  

With my wife, I try and delight her with small acts of love and kindness. Whether it’s an impromptu lunch date, an unexpected sticky note on the mirror, or simply cleaning the house so she doesn’t have to, I’ve found that those small things go a long way.

With our son, we do our best to remind him how much we love him and how proud he makes us, just by being himself. We love spending time together as a family, so we frequent the zoo, the Adventure Science Center, and of course the ice cream shop. We also try to be intentional about teaching our son that every person we meet has value and dignity. We spend a lot of time with our friends with special needs and learn so much from them. Our neighbor Jay is a wonderful friend of ours, who happens to have Asperger’s and Cerebral Palsy. He’s at our house so often that Asher calls him “Uncle Jay.”

PW: Josh, as a musician in an industry that is often about self-promotion and trying to become famous, how do you ground yourself in your faith? In what ways in your career, big or small, do you try to shine a light on human dignity?

JW: It is certainly tricky to balance faith and business, and I’m not convinced there’s a great way to do that. I try to spend the first moments of each day reading and praying, reminding myself of who I am in Christ. God loves me, not because of anything I’ve done, but simply because I’m his child. When I think about God’s love for me, and how little I’ve earned it, that certainly helps me stay grounded. Because we’re all created by God in his image, we all have value. And because I am loved by God, I am free to give that love away to all of his image-bearers, which just so happens to be all of humanity.

PW: Becca, you two are both leaders in a ministry here in Tennessee called The Ascent. Why have you decided to do that?

Becca Wilson: We were first introduced to the special needs community in Nashville in 2010 when we met our neighbor, Jay, who is more like family to us, as Josh mentioned. Through Jay, I learned about Young Life Capernaum, which is a branch of Young Life specifically for students with disabilities. I immediately fell in love with the ministry and the people of Capernaum. It is precious to look back on my life and see a thread where God was evidently and consistently turning my heart and sight to people with special needs—in every season of my life since I was in elementary school, I have had a dear friend with a disability. It has been since I became involved with Young Life Capernaum that I have realized that the special needs community is a group of people I forever want to be walking alongside. 

The Ascent grew out of our local Young Life Capernaum club. We were outgrowing our space, and most of our attendees were well into adulthood. We had the desire to continue to be a community with this group of friends with special needs, and, with the wonderful leadership and support of Young Life Capernaum staff, a group of churches from Nashville, and a few other willing hearts, we are continuing to grow and thrive. It is the sweetest joy to have my friends from the Ascent be just that—my friends. We are all adults, equal but unique in our many abilities, bearing with one another in love, seeking Jesus and learning how to show his love to one another. I have been humbled by the way this community has loved me. 

PW: Becca, as a mom to a little boy, what are some practical ways that you have found to begin to teach him about human dignity? 

BW: Mr. Fred Rogers told children, “I like you just the way you are,” and said that we don’t tell people that enough. I have lovingly stolen that from Mr. Rogers and tell my son daily, “I love you just the way you are.” I do my best to help Asher see people—to look up, look out, and appreciate every person we come in contact with, although there are many times where he does a much better job of teaching me this than vice versa. When our pastor at church dedicates babies, he prays for courage and compassion for them. I have also adopted this, and I pray over Asher daily that he will have courage to do what is right and what honors the Lord, and compassion for everyone around him. It is the best reward when I not only hear Asher repeat those words back to me, but when I see him truly have compassion for every person. Asher is with us at every gathering for The Ascent, when we get to be a part of Capernaum camp, and he hangs out with “Uncle Jay” regularly. I know without a doubt that living daily life with our friends with special needs is teaching him that every person matters, every person has a beautiful role to play in this world, and everyone is deserving to be loved just the way they are—as image bearers of our Creator. 

God has always used ordinary men and women in the midst of their mundane lives to bring about his work of salvation; to represent him to others, and to honor the dignity of those who have been overlooked and pushed aside. 

It is a privilege to walk alongside friends like Becca and Josh as they “dream small.” It is through these faithful small dreams that God shows his glory and begins to push the darkness back with his light.  

Palmer Williams

Palmer specializes in legal and policy analysis related to international human rights, sanctity of life, and government affairs. As a licensed attorney specializing in international law, she has extensive experience advocating for human rights on the international stage, including at the United Nations. She earned her Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24