Posted by: Rowland | December 17, 2007

Missional Church – vision and idealism

Vision and idealism are not the same thing. Vision brings life and forward movement and is full of grace. Idealism is limited, rigid and structured – a rule that will crush you if you fail to live by it. Idealism sees only the lack in the present, the errors in the past, and the impossibility of the future. Vision lives by faith, faith in the forgiveness of God for past mistakes, faith in God’s radical power to change for the present, hearty faith in God’s caring purposes to be worked out in the future.

Idealism feels crushed in agony by personal failure to achieve, scandalized by sin and littleness of mind and heart in others, angered by circumstances that will not change, depressed by lack of progress towards the goal. Vision finds joy in God’s mercy healing the past; vision finds peace in God’s protecting presence in all circumstances – however painful, vision finds hope when looking towards the future, because Jesus, the beginning and the end of our faith, walks within us into the future.

Idealism shouts, “Failure, failure”. Vision shouts louder, “Grace and more grace”. Idealism is based on ideals – ideas, plans, decisions and theories, of how the right thing can be achieved. Vision is centred on the kind and loving nature of God – who he is and what he wants to do for us. Idealism is impersonal; vision brims over with the personality of God. Idealism has a lot of myself in it. Idealism needs me to live it out and make it happen. Vision relies upon God. If he doesn’t do it, nothing happens – but he will and does.

Idealism is a harsh and unsympathetic taskmaster, and at the end can only bring disappointment. Vision is like a spring flower, full of life and promise. It’s based on God’s understanding of our imperfect humanness, and his love, and his determination to shepherd us into the centre of his loving will. Vision is new and fresh every morning, as is our friendship with God.

Idealism is the world’s way of thinking. Allow your thinking to be moulded and renewed into new vision, by the Holy Spirit of God. Allow him to do it for you. You cannot change yourself but God can change you.
Idealism is passed on or manufactured or learned. Vision is imparted – heart to heart. It is a little piece of God’s heart and mind, shared with us by the gifting Holy Spirit. It is sweetness in the mouth or secret joy in the heart, healing balm to weariness of spirit, and clear direction to the mind.

Let go of idealism, it will do you and others no good; let God graft his own sustaining, kind, motivating, energising, loving vision.
Idealism always stays the same, set in concrete. Because vision has its springs in the personality of a God of love it is fresh to us each day, sustained by the friendship of God – it changes and develops and adapts because God is a responsive God, full of cheerful compassion towards the bewildering lives of his children, living in an alien world.

I can’t claim the above thoughts as my own but Vicki presented them to me some years ago – words of wisdom are so insightful when in our frailty we seek to understand God’s ways and move forward.


  1. I really enjoyed this one, as I have been comtemplating idealism myself…but the way you just articulated it has been rather refreshing and insightfull…
    Also still pondering our last conversation about being in Barbados or being elsewhere and asking the question, what is God doing in our community right now?!

  2. jahdai – glad you enjoyed it. Due to popular demand (your comment!) we have followed it up with a sequel. Enjoy.

  3. Solid!

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