July 1, 1994
Richard W. Dortch has seen the good that vision can do. As a missionary, pastor, and district superintendent, he was widely regarded as a visionary Christian leader. But he has also seen the havoc wreaked by a misdirected vision, when he served as president of PTL. For that ministry's scandals, Dortch spent more than a year in prison and lost virtually everything, financially, in fines and legal fees.
Chastened by his experience, Dortch submitted to discipline from the Assemblies of God, and his ministerial credentials were restored in 1991. He has since founded Life Challenge, a ministry to professionals in crisis, based in Clearwater, Florida. He is author of Integrity and Fatal Conceit (both by New Leaf Press).
LEADERSHIP contributing editor Brian Larson asked Dortch about the necessary checks and balances for any church leader's vision.
What makes vision dangerous?
Pride. Vision appeals to our ego.
I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. My problem was not that I bought into someone else's vision; I bought into my own ego and what PTL was doing for me. I saw something big and great that could make me bigger and greater.
Once a vision is up and running, pride can lead a person to do whatever is necessary to maintain it, including "funny money" fund-raising and lying. It all feeds on itself. A leader compelled by pride will do whatever is necessary--even lie and cheat--to maintain that vision.
When did you realize vision could be destructive?
While in prison, I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book Life Together. Let me read a brief section to you:
"He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter even though his personal intention may be ...