Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


Compass or Map? Finding Our Way Forward

Jul 26, 2016

When was the last time you got lost? I mean, really lost!

Our family moved to a new city recently and I’ve been really intentional about making sure I know where I’m going as I venture out and explore. I don’t like getting lost and I’m grateful I have ended up where I needed to go each time without driving in circles.

GPS app

The truth is we don’t get lost very often while driving today. GPS, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Siri – we have numerous tools to make sure we know where we’re going and we arrive there on time. The days of buying a map, stopping at a gas station to ask for directions or writing down how to get somewhere seem to be in the distant past.

Unless our phone battery died and we don’t have a car charger, we likely won’t get lost.

While driving, that is. If only the rest of life were that easy…

Outside of the car, though, finding our way is much more difficult. We have to make decisions, discern opportunities, apply our values and take steps forward.

compass ocean

Compass or Map?

Recently, I read a quote from Michael Lukaszewski, a former pastor and currently a church consultant with an organization called Church Fuel. He wrote, “Your organization needs a compass more than a map.” 

I thought this was an interesting idea, as a compass can help us wherever we are, whereas a map may be out of date or unhelpful for a given location. (For example, if you offer me a map of Arizona, but we’re in Maine, a compass will be much more helpful than a map).

In life, we rarely get a map but we can always build ourselves a compass.  

A compass doesn’t tell us where we are, but it does tell us where we are headed. A compass directs us by orienting itself towards true north. My wife and I have been talking about how we’re reorienting ourselves directionally living in a new town and a new place – determining directions helps us know where we are and how we get home when we’re exploring our new surroundings.

When you know your “true north”, you can make wise decisions, seize opportunities and pass on offers which take you off course.

3 indicators of Your “True North” 

-A priority list.

A priority list is a written, ordered list of what you value most. What are the most important things in your life? What order do they fall in? Establishing what matters most determines how to handle the environmental pressure around what matters least. A priority list ensures that what is most important does not edge out what is loudest and most urgent.

-A decision-making filter.

I made a public comment recently about how my wife and I knew we were supposed to make a transition from one church (and city) to another. Someone followed up with me and asked me how I knew. I didn’t have two hours to unpack all of the ways, but I shared with him the words of pastor, sage and writer Henry Blackaby. Blackaby once wrote, “God speaks to us in (at least) four ways – Scripture, prayer, people, and circumstances.” I told this guy we had sensed God speaking in each of these four ways, all leading us in the same direction. My decision making-filter involves running an opportunity through this four-part grid and listening well to what I hear. My “true north” is affirmed using these four avenues of hearing from God.

-Past experience & wisdom gleaned from others.

The only way I know to gain more wisdom than I have experience is to glean from the experience and wisdom of others. My past experience – success but especially failure – shapes my perspective looking ahead and defines the nature of my future decisions.

One of the reasons we should read consistently is a desire to be more wise than we should be by nature of our own experiences. Sure, we could all learn the hard way individually. But what if we could learn from the mistakes and shortfalls of others, saving ourselves the heartache and pain? If we want to go further faster, we can borrow the wisdom of others. We may not have made a certain decision, but someone else certainly has.

Next Steps

These are three concrete steps we could all take today. Start with the priority list. If you had to sit down and write down the 10 most important things/people to you, what would that list look like? How has it changed for you over the last 2, 5, or 10 years?

Consider the decision-making filter. What was the last good decision you made? Do an autopsy on how you made that decision. What steps did you take and how can you apply that same process to your next big choice?

Look back at your experience. What has life taught you? Also, what have you learned from others? I believe most of us have knowledge which far exceeds our application of it. We can narrow the gap when we apply what we’ve learned from life and others’ lives, leveraging other people’s lessons towards our current challenge.

One of my favorite questions to ask groups I speak to is “how many of you are not where you thought you’d be at this point in your life?”. Normally, the vast majority of the hands in the room go up. While I know this research isn’t scientific, it feels like many of us have seen life work out in a way we didn’t plan for, nor expect.


As most of us know, life rarely consults our best-laid plans and we often find ourselves adjusting to life “off the map” we drew out for our future. However, when our map is no longer helpful, a compass which orients us to our true north can guide us forward. A compass can help us determine what matters most, even in the middle of a crisis we never saw coming.

Our organizations need a compass more than a map. But the people inside these organizations – you and me – we need them too.

I’d love to hear from you! How do you determine what matters most to you? What’s your “true north”, the compass which orients (and re-orients) you when life doesn’t follow the map?

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