I love this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer but at first glance it is quite shocking. Anyone who has been involved in modern church leadership knows the importance of vision. It is one of the key steps to build a successful church. We all know the first part of Proverbs 29:18 ‘where there is no vision, the people perish’. Bonhoeffer’s words seem to be the complete opposite. So what is it that makes his insight so true?
“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. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.”
For Bonhoeffer the problem is not so much having a visionary dream but understanding where the dream has come from. He is very particular when he talks about the man, or woman, who creates the dream without first seeking God. It’s a vision that is created by a person and not inspired by the Creator himself. It certainly may involve God, but it is not a God-ordained vision. Instead God simply has a role he is expected to play. This is the type of vision that God hates. I don’t believe this means the dreamer is automatically a bad or ungodly leader but that God first needs to break the vision which holding them back.
I my experience I have seen this to be true. There are times when I have created and held firmly to my vision before truly seeking God’s viewpoint. It is the grace of God that has broken these vision of my back even though it may have been painful. These experiences have helped me to look to God and seek his vision. It goes to show there is nothing that cannot be redeemed by God’s grace.