John H. Armstrong: Idealism Will Burn You Out
I grew up in the 1960s generation. That tells you a lot really. We were disillusioned, on a very profound level, yet very idealistic on another. I adopted elements of both of these as my own intellectual and spiritual life developed over the decades that followed....I dreamed about making a huge difference by pastoring a faithful and biblical flock. Over the last fifteen years, or so, I have had to resist the opposite extreme, disillusionment.... I have seen so much that breaks my heart, in me and in others, that I wonder about the whole business.
It seems to me the real problem with the idealist is that he or she is more in love with ideals than with people and the Church. This is Bonhoeffer's famous "wish dream." The problem with disillusionment is that you will lose your way just trying to get by and not mess things up too much. Don't misunderstand me. This latter response is not totally bad. Young adults must face life and experience their hard knocks like everyone else. Middle aged adults tend to still think that they can get it right if they only have the "perfect storm" come along. By this stage of life I just want to love God and love my neighbor and remain a truly faithful follower of Christ.
Many of you know that I have a deep personal interest in many people and ideals within the emergent movement. You can praise it or condemn it. Because I do neither some find me an easy target. But I count many of the writers and leaders in these circles as friends. At the same time I profoundly disagree with some of these men and women on some very important issues.
One of the concerns I repeatedly have, after conversations with emergent leaders, or when I read the newest highly-promoted book release like Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change (Nelson, 2007), is simply this: "When will this idealism run out and people will begin to burn out?" Brian is so interesting, so serious, and so engaged. At the same time he writes some of the best, and some of the worst, material from within this movement. His ideals are stimulating and his prose moving.
...I am concerned, however, for many of the young people who follow these trends and the continually moving ideals generated by this, or any similar, movement. Where will this lead these young adults when these communities do not work the way they are supposed to work? Where will they be when the music stops and the movement is no longer exciting? Where will they be when the trendiness no longer seems trendy enough? What then?
John has more than decade headstart on me but reading this post I felt like John was reading my mind. Very well said.