There is a gap between what you are dreaming of and what is right in front of you. No matter who you are and what you are called to do. You can imagine it better. That’s why reality always lets us down. We have to learn to live with that, and not let our idealism let us become cynical and let us become full of worry.
I am all for dreaming. I don’t know another pastor in the UK who talks about dreaming big as often as I do. But one of the dangers of dreaming is that you will never actually fully walk in the fulness of a dream. Not immediately, and sometimes not ever.
This will knock you out of being happy and knock you into worry every time if you are not patient with your dreams and are aware of the gap between dreams and reality. What I call the reality gap.
Basically, the reality gap is this: nothing is quite as you imagined it; nothing is perfect; no-one is perfect; there is no perfect church; no perfect service; no perfect leader; no perfect guest speaker; nothing is perfect.
There is always a big gap between the reality and the dream. And nowhere is that gap first realized than when you start something new. I have had a dream to build a 3000 strong mega-church in England since I was first saved in 1996. And when that dream was just inside my head, it was easy to believe in a mega-church. Now I have a church of 150 in London, that reality can obscure and frustrate the dream. I have to remind myself that I am now closer to seeing my dream fulfilled than I have ever been.
You might have a vision to start a Bible College with 150 students and 10 sign up. Guess what? You are closer to that vision than you have ever been. You might have a vision to start a business that makes a million pounds and you make £4.50. Guess what – that’s the closest you have been so far!
Don’t let the gap between your dream and reality stop you dreaming. NEVER let the reality gap knock you for six. As Andrew Wommack (wisely) says: “Better to aim for the stars and hit the moon, than aim for nothing and hit nothing.”
It’s better to have a dream of winning 100 people to Christ and winning 20 than dream of winning none and completing it! It’s better to have a dream of being out of debt by the end of 2013 and end up paying 1/2 your debt off, than doing and dreaming nothing and being more in debt than when you started. It’s better to aim at losing 30lbs and losing 10lbs than aiming at nothing and being even podgier than when you started!
And because of the nature of ministry, we are especially vulnerable to the reality gap knocking us out and discouraging us to the point of quitting.
We launch out into the deep, expecting revival and thousands of salvations. Instead its 5 people sitting in a living room. You hire a hall and no one comes, and then you still have to pay the bills. You appoint an elder then find out they never stop arguing with their wife. You have chosen some beautiful songs for worship to have the band murder them, bury them, and exhume them and murder them a second time. You invite a glorious guest speaker, they treat you like a second class citizen, no one comes but the chosen frozen, the people who do come tell you how much they hate your church, and then they leave with your people…
It’s hard when these things happen. But the truth is that there will always be a reality gap. The nature of pastoral ministry is that pastors often see the world in black and white, when it isn’t like that at all.
You expect a perfect worship service, but it just wasn’t that good. Well – please keep in mind it wasn’t that bad either. You leave the pulpit upset that it didn’t set the world on fire, but if it warmed a handful of people – celebrate what has happened.
You spend hundreds of pounds advertising in the local paper and only three new people came – and two of them were weirdos! Rejoice in that – it was worth it!
I know you have a big dream – I have one too – but I tell you the truth, the most surefire way to kill any dream is to fail to celebrate every step towards it, to fail to enjoy an imperfect execution of a God idea. At the end of the day, we are all very much human and any church and any business will inevitably reflect that. If you keep on hurting because you don’t allow for the gap, you will become a worried person and always be concerned it isn’t perfect.
Today, I had to send an email out to our entire mailing list three times over, once the link to give was missing due to technical issues, the second time, I mispelled an easy word wrong! I felt a bit of an idiot, but do you know what, within one hour we raised nearly £300 to tile the floor of a Roma church in Bulgaria. So, that’s better than nothing right?! I wanted to raise £2000 in one hour, but why get worried at something quite remarkable!
If you don’t grasp the reality gap, you will get angry at people who you feel are not progressing quickly enough, you will worry about people taking time to grow. That will come across in all your relationships with people, and cause all sorts of problems.
Yes, you may be believing for 10 new people to be at church on Sunday, and maybe only 6 new people will come. CELEBRATE THE SIX, don’t worry about the four!
That’s how you deal with the reality gap, and that’s how you confront idealism. Keep dreaming, but just enjoy the journey too!