As you're probably aware, "visionary" people are the most celebrated people in the modern people. We want to see people who have a compelling picture of the future and can make us believe it's attainable. We want to be people who can point others in the direction of new frontiers, new ideas, and new concepts that propel the gospel of Christ into the future.

When we think about visionary people, we typically think of the guys who live in the future. They can project what the near future will bring, and position their organizations such that it will meet the needs of the future when the future arrives.

But I wonder if our current celebration of "visionary" people might be a little misplaced.

Let me first say that I consider myself a "visionary" person. I love to dream about the future, and think about strategy and goals for reaching others with the gospel in the future. But I see "vision" in a little different way.

First, being a visionary person demands being a student of history. There are some celebrated "visionaries" in the church today who threw the rear-view mirror out of their car several years ago. That's a problem for me. Because when we detach ourselves from history, we detach ourselves from thousands of years of people who all sought answers to the same problems we face today. We also detach ourselves from a community of faith that extends thousands of years earlier than the latest book from some 1980s pipe-smoking hippie who wants to solve the problems of the church. Only when we realize where the church has been are we able to see where the church should go in the future. Without our past, there is no future. To be truly visionary, you have to be a student of history as well.

Secondly, a lot of the "visionary" people we celebrate have a compelling 5 or 10 year vision, but not much beyond that. But I believe the visionary people who will do the most for the church are the men who are able to cast a vision that is bigger than 5 or 10 years down the road. Most of our "visionaries" today only think as long as they're going to be in ministry. They seek to patch up the current issues and leave the issues their fixes create for someone else to mess with. What if our most visionary people started dreaming about what the church could look like in 100 years? 200 years? What if we laid the groundwork for that kind of revolution and stopped offering culturally based reactions?