Pastor's Blog

I think one of the biggest challenges of navigating life as you age is the handling of ideals.  We all start off life with limited practical experience and most of us, based on our good and bad experiences, establish ideals – beliefs about what SHOULD be – to guide us.

 

Ideals are absolutely necessary and a wonderful thing – if used properly.  Ideals provide a target to aim at and a direction to go as you plot your path in life.  But as we gain life experience we find our ideals colliding with reality because . . . well, because reality is not ideal.  Because people are not ideal.  I’m not ideal and I can’t even live up to my own ideals, much less someone else’s.

 

So when ideals and reality collide – what do you do?  Do you grasp your ideal more tightly and attempt to force it on the reality around you and make reality conform to it?  Or do you conclude that your wonderful ideal needed a little tempering by cold, hard reality to be made more workable in the real world?  There is a time for both of those things.  Discernment, I believe, is knowing which option to choose when.

 

I’ve concluded that I and the flock entrusted to me are usually best served when I adjust my ideals to reality, working slowly and gradually toward change, toward my ideal, rather than trying to instigate a violent revolution, demanding that things be done my way – a practice that does little more than leave bloodied souls in your wake.  Better, I think, to try to persuade people of the value of my ideals, and work to bring them on board and keep them on board, adjusting to them, cooperating with them, and encouraging them to adjust and cooperate with me.  And slowly we make our way forward.

 

It’s called “compromise”. 

 

When I first came to evangelicalism “compromise” was a dirty word.  You NEVER compromise, I was told.  Compromise was seen as an evil.  There are certainly core principles – fundamental truths – that cannot and must not be compromised;  places where you dig in your heels and don’t budge. 

 

But the older I get, the fewer of those I find.  My list of fundamentals not to be compromised has been whittled down significantly since I was twenty-one.  In most practical things, in the living out of life, I have found compromise to be an expression of love and an excellent way to work towards growth and effective change with people rather than against them.  It’s a great exercise in dying to self, a central part of a walk with Christ.

 

There is an inside joke among board members at our church.  Whenever we need to raise money for a project, someone will say “Time to get out the thermometer!”.  For years I fought against the idea of fund-raising gimmicks, like putting out a board with a thermometer painted on it, and every week the red line goes up as the giving goes up.  I always believed people motivated and excited by a cheap gimmick like that have something wrong with their moral compass.  I believed people should be motivated internally, caring about the need and wanting to give to it because they genuinely understood and cared about the need.  They should have pure motivation in their souls – not the giddy desire to see a painted line getting longer.

 

And then I came to realize that the visual image of the rising thermometer helped people keep track of the amount that was needed – but in a light-hearted and fun way.  So I tossed away my ideal of perfectly pure internal motivation for giving. 

 

I still oppose using a thermometer, however.  Our church is “Mountain View Chapel”, so I believe we should have a little mountain-climber working his way to the summit of a cardboard mountain…

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