Idealism Without Action: 'A Deceptive Dead End'

Idealism without Action - A Deceptive Dead End

Idealism without Action – A Deceptive Dead End

Anyone can wax eloquent about what could, or should be, versus what currently “is.” Idealism without action is a delusional dead end. Preachers, teachers, prophetic types, “apostolic visionaries,” dreamers, philosophers–whatever your language tradition might call them–are particularly vulnerable to irrelevant idealism. It is better to incarnate imperfection, than to romanticize about a never-seen ideal.  Jesus can do a lot with folks who will simply “get to it” imperfectly, rather than “talk about it” ideally.

Perpetually “declaring” and “speaking” this and that in meetings, debating on Facebook about what “isn’t but should be,” rehashing ideals over and over again, as wonderful as the ideals may be, without accompanying action to match what is declared, seen, or debated is intoxicatingly deceptive. The lure of idealism is so powerful, because it is intellectually and spiritually stimulating. Yet it inoculates against real kingdom life.

You can become so fixated on the ideal, that you cannot see the progessive realization of the very thing you may be idealizing about! It might even  be right in front of your eyes, but you won’t recognize it.  Simply because we may not be seeing or experiencing something in our own sphere of existence, does not mean that the thing we are “believing for” or “hoping for” doesn’t already exist, or that it only remains to be seen in some great future day!  It just means I might not be involved with what God is already doing, somewhere else! It could be that my idealism is blinding me. It can be intimidating and humbling to admit that to one’s self. There is an element of spiritual fraud we have to admit to ourselves–we talk a big game while living a small one, particularly in the Evangelical West. There’s no condemnation in it, if we just admit it to ourselves and God. He understands our inflated opinions of our own spiritual significance. He is great at letting air out of balloons. He isn’t surprised by the cons we run on our selves and Him. He is there to deliver us from ourselves!

I know folks who teach, write, and long for some idyllic future day when the church becomes all she is destined to be. Well, many of the things these folks would include as attributes of that idyllic day are happening . . . right now! But they are just not happening in the way, in the places, or within the theological constructs and beliefs of many idealists.

I am not saying I have it all together. Far, far, from it.  I know I am next to useless without partnering with those who have an implementing grace. I know my limitations. They are legion. I have the the great privilege to know, relate with, and work with people who are realizing, at this very moment what others only idealistically philosophize about. Whatever it is called: “revival” “kingdom,” “dominion,” “holistic apostolic mission,”  “signs and wonders,” “souls won,” whatever the label . . .  is happening . . . now.

What’s the difference?

Some folks talk. Some some folks do. Those that do, tend to see more than those that talk.

Idealism without action gives a false sense of significance. While actually doing nothing, we can believe ourselves to be spiritually significant and accomplishing great kingdom feats in the “invisible realm.” That is not kingdom faith. That is Gnosticism.

Some have been infected with a form of hyper-spiritual passivity under the guise of “waiting on the Lord,” as in, “don’t do anything for fear that you might bring forth an Ishmael.” Folks who have been conditioned with this line of thought tend to not see very much of the very things they idealize about. God is well able to deal with all our pride, wrong motives, the Ishmael in us, etc. When we are more concerned about the reach of his kingdom to others than our own personal adornment in piety and spirituality in the third, seventh, or fiftieth heaven, our dreams will be realized. Kingdom perfection has a peculiar earthy aroma to it.  Those hoping for the church version of a clean stall, are not going to see much.

Idealism gives the false impression of progress without the cost of our personal investment: the abandonment of personal comforts and agendas. It’s the spiritual equivalent of a being addicted to a combat video game: “You can be a “winner” from the comfort of your living room in your spiritual underwear while eating Doritos, because of some thumb clicks, not because you have toiled in the arena of reality.  You’re not really in the game, though you are playing one.  Spiritual idealism is just such a fantasy.

We think because we can “see and declare or articulate” some great thing that we are in some advanced state of enlightenment. We’re not.  Philosophers (Inspirational, visionary, prophetic–whatever your language may be) need to partner with, involve themselves, with implementers to prevent delusional stagnation. Some folks see it, others “git ‘er done.” I think we need more of the latter.

Seeing an ideal is necessary to motivate for progress. But seeing is not enough.


A friend of mine once said: “Wouldn’t it be amazing to see what God could do, if it didn’t matter who on earth got the credit?”

I think many idealists are not seeing what they idealize about, not because it isn’t happening, but because their own agenda in the pursuit of their idealism inhibits both their sight and their experience.

It need not be so.

The new solution is the old solution, the ever unchanging solution. The answer is simple: live lives in love with God and humanity, live “all in,” play to win in reality, give yourself away for Jesus and the planet, and you will have all the realized kingdom you can handle. You won’t have to give yourself significance by claiming to see or perceive more than you are living. It is easier to live in idealism than to pay the price to make an ideal reality. I want to live the latter not just declare the former.



Copyright 2014,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact:

Would you like to partner with us in distributing our materials and perhaps generate some income for yourself?  Please go to: for details of our Affiliate program. This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help? Thank you and God bless you.

2 comments on “Idealism Without Action: 'A Deceptive Dead End'

  1. Great word Steve! The old adage “Talk is cheap” still rings true. So many get caught in the billabong of spiritualized negativity and critical spirit, sounding so enlightened from the ivory tower of never having done anything – never having put their great ideas to the test in real life. Many don’t get off the bench to actually do the stuff or out of the armchair to take a risk, and think they are so enlightened.

    As harsh as it sounds, there is so much noise in the world, mostly by wanna be’s, ’cause the folks who are actually doing the stuff are too busy doing it.

    Keep walking & talking – you are worth listening to.

  2. Thanks, Michael. Well said yourself. This blog was birthed out of a conversation with a 35-year “missionary” (in the best sense of the word) to Brazil who is actually doing apostolic, holistic, city-transforming work, instead of philosophizing about it. He was inspiring and convicting to be with. I am privileged to know him and call him my friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *