God hates visionary dreaming

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 the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God and finally the despairing accuser of himself.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

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4 Thoughts to “God hates visionary dreaming”

  1. Andy_in_Germany

    I think we need to remember Bonhoeffer’s cultural context: In Germany we do have a problem with ‘visionary leaders’ who decide to start ‘community’ and destroy anyone who doesn’t fit into their way of thinking, usually in the name of ‘unity’ (Defined as ‘everyone should do as I say’): it seems more prevalent

    here than in other culture, and it is the main reason we now work alone and not in the big organisation we wre in for the start of our time in Germany: the local leader just dropped anyone who didn’t fit/disagreed/was a threat in the name of ‘unity’, and we fell into one of those categories.

    Afterwards started a sort of community based on the visionary dream of a bunch of messy people getting together and seeing what happened after that, and very clearly deciding that whatever the ‘community’ looked like, it would be undergoing constant change as people joined: everyone was a gift from God to us and we acommodated them accordingly.

    We called it a theatre team but the effect was the same and it became a gathering place for people who didn’t fit into the church, like er… us.

    So I don’t think visionary dreamers are a problem, as long as we don’t fall into the trap of hammering everyone else into fitting our vision.

    I wonder if at times the problem is that many visionaries start too soon and haven’t experienced heartache and disillusionment in their communities, or seeing their dreams die and having to trust God to rebuild them (dreamers and dreams). Without these experiences, it makes it very hard ffor visionaries to realise they are hurting others, or possibly, to care.

    1. Thanks for the perspective Andy. Clearly, there is a difference between ‘vision’ and the ‘visionary’. So like you said, the one alone on whom this enterprise rests and falls. I think we see a lot of parallels in that with celebrity pastors and how they react when things go wrong, as you yourself, have experienced.

  2. JP


    Nah, Bohn’s pretty clear. Visionaries are dangerous regardless of the cultural context (assuming we are talking about Christian leaders). There is no Biblical basis for it. God has given us clear instructions for what the church should look like and what pastors and deacons are supposed to do. Anyone claiming divine revelation – a vision from God – about the church is either lying or deceived.

    Here in the US, we have a glaring example of how destructive visionary leaders can be; what’s happening right now at Mars Hill in Seattle is a virtual case study on the dangers of a church lead by a visionary. Many people at Mars Hill have been hurt and the name of Christ has been slandered by those outside the church because of what has happened.

    God still speaks; He speaks in His Word.

  3. […] where one might pursue one’s “big vision.” As an aside, Bonhoeffer’s “God hates visionary dreaming” quote is a nice antidote to some aspects of toxic churchianity because ‘vision’ […]

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