A Better Way?

Here’s a challenging quote from Bonhoeffer for you this morning.

“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.” (Life Together)

While I think its a slight overstatement, I also believe he’s right onto something important. When we dream up our big plans for the community we run the risk of actually destroying what we would hope to achieve.

I do think God gives us visions, but I also think that sometimes we feel pressure to deliver a vision – any vision so that we can justify our existence – and in that there is great danger.

If it fails we blame others, blame God and sooner or later ourselves.

Surely there is a better way?…

7 thoughts on “A Better Way?

  1. God hates the proud and pretentious….yes. But putting that statement next to his opinion, somehow one truth is meant to give weight to his own opinion? How does Bornhoffer know what God hates?

    God hates sin.

    God hates pride. Yes.

    But whether God hates the visionary dreamer is something altogether different.

    I reckon B dogmatic opinion….is wandering close to what God hates.

    As to the question, one might suggest that God loves visionary dreams, one might suggest He gives them!

    Of course the issue always us…we interpret in ways that reflect our own desires at times.

    I wonder if what we personally feel, and even our personality, drives this sentiment that Bornhoffer expresses.

    Look at the scriptures, they are full of characters who dreamed big dreams, and saw those dreams realised through the power and sovereignity of God.

  2. Mark – I think sometimes God does give us visions, but Bonheoffer’s point is that we sometimes create our own vision/s and then place them on people as obligations and this is where things fall apart.

    A vision from God is a great thing – but a vision fabricated because we have to come up with one is quite likely to be a burden.

  3. The use of “visionary dreaming” in this sense may assume the the vision or dream comes from the individual rather than from God. If that is true, it may lead to arrogant pretension and judgmental imposition.

    However, In Joseph’s case he had a dream that his brothers and parents called arrogant dreaming. In his case it really was from God. But God had to wait until Joseph really understood that it was God’s dream and God’s work to make it come to pass in his way.

    Many of us also fail to understand that God’s dream is about his work and his ways that often are disagreeable or uncomfortable to us. God often has to wait while we get our attitudes sorted out and in humble order with his sovereignty. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just start there? Visionary dreaming with God and with humility is dynamite.

  4. I wonder if we’ll ever see a senior pastor’s visionary dream statement, graphically designed and beautifully framed and placed all around the foyer of a church, that says something like… “in 5 years God will halve our numbers, our pews will be empty and our 5 weekend services will be reduced to 1 fortnightly service. 75% of our staff will have to find part-time jobs outside of the church due to our weekly tithing decreasing by 90.”

    While this is very unlikely, the truth is that this would be the sort of reality that many pastors will live through, while their church vision statements read more like the “fact” that the Holy Spirit will be personally joining their church congregation and imminent revival will follow – hence there will be the need for a new 5000 seat auditorium, 14 services, 5 new campuses and more, more, more!!!!

    I believe there can be too much pressure on pastors (from both themselves, their congregations and the wider church culture) to perform (read: “more, more, more”) and that inevitably leads to the sort of “visionary dreaming” referred to by Bonhoeffer. This is not to say that God doesn’t give some people “big, hairy, audacious goals” but to assume that this is the mantle of every pastor/christian, is simply unnecessary and fantastical, and results in relational and spiritual carnage.

    Keep it simple I reckon – leave the 5 and 10 year vision projections to the market research guys at Coca Cola and just get on with loving God, loving ourselves and loving others… and what will be, will be.

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