Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

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Map vs. Compass

  • Dr. James Emery White

    The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

    James Emery Whiteis the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and…

  • Updated Jul 03, 2013

Historically, there have been two tools to help guide us in our travels.  One is a map, and the other is a compass.

They are two very different things.

A map is a drawn out picture of freeways and highways, roads and routes, that help you see how to get from point “A” to point “B.”

But as Seth Godin once noted, the map keeps getting redrawn.  Technology keeps changing the routes we take to get to our destinations (and projects).

It doesn’t pay to memorize the route, because it’s going to change soon.

The compass, on the other hand, is more relevant than ever.

A compass gives a sense of direction, but not specificity.  It tells us “due north,” but not which turn to take on the way.  It keeps us heading in the right direction, but the actual steps taken are ours to determine.

So maps give steps, but those steps are ever-changing and often wrong; a compass gives us direction that never fails, and leaves it to us to make judgments as to how best to put one foot in front of another.

What does God promise those who follow Him?

Certainly not a map.

Just ask Abraham.

The Bible tells us that when God called him to leave his country, it was simply “to the land I will show you” (Gen. 12:1, NIV).

Actually, that’s not even a compass.  That’s a personal Guide.

So perhaps the point is to form ourselves in Christ in such a way that we have an internal sense of true north, but then place our lives in the hands of the One who will guide each and every step.

Sounds like a plan to me.

James Emery White



Seth Godin, “The map has been replaced by the compass,” read online.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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