Perception Is NOT Reality

This week I heard another “expert” in church growth using the asinine phrase “perception is realty”. Perception is not reality…it is only perception. Einstein’s “Law Of Relativity” (not to mention God’s Word) pretty much squashes the whole “perception is reality” myth. Perception is strictly your take on something from the point from which you view it. The reality of what you view remains unchanged…as it is reality unobstructed (duh)….you only see it differently because of your point of view. That does not mean that your view is correct…it just means it’s your point of view (much like this blog post). To get a true sense of reality you must be close to what you are viewing…or your perception will be flawed.

If someone is far away from God…and His Word…then their view is going to be vastly changed from that of someone that is close to God. The view doesn’t change the reality…of Truth…the perception is not the Reality. To suggest that we allow the perception of those far from God dictate the direction of the Church…instead of following the reality and Truth of God’s Word…is a dangerous and flawed concept!!!

Perception Is NOT Reality

22 thoughts on “Perception Is NOT Reality

  1. What about…. “A correct perception is a reality?”…. See spot run. I perceived to see spot run. Did spot really run in real life? Yes. So I have the right perception, and so therefore I see reality as it is. What do you think?


  2. If you see Spot head on coming toward you from down the street he may appear to be walking. The question is not about whether Spot was moving…but how he was moving.

    Again…my point is not about Spot. It’s about the Church taking it’s directional cues from culture and the “disconnected”. No matter how hard we try we can’t undo that fact that we love Jesus…and the world will hate us for that. The Scriptures never told us to poll unchurched people…and then come up with a plan they set forth to reach them. It says to follow Him…His Word…and to present the Truth without compromise. When we present the “Truth” as people want us to present it…then it is compromised. Sorry dude…can’t agree with your point. Everyone has a perception about how “Spot” is running…or how he should run…these days. It doesn’t mean that those perceptions are Scripturally accurate…especially when the opinions of people that don’t know God is figured in. It’s gotten to be too much about the presentation and not about the substance…the tail is wagging…well…”Spot” πŸ™‚

    The real fact is that God doesn’t need us…or our feeble attempts at culturally relevant outreach…to bring people to Him…we’re all just squirrels trying to find a nut. πŸ™‚


  3. Jud Epting says:

    Thank You Chris Elrod !!!

    Aiming for relevancy is a lot like going snipe hunting… you are chasing something that does not even exist. The definition of “relevant” should be “what was important YESTERDAY!!!”. And relevant to who anyway???

    Conversion is when someone hears the OLD FASHIONED Gospel and heeds the working of the Holy Spirit through that message. any other way and you have yourself a false conversion. This is what is DEVESTATING, how many people in the Church believe they are Christians because they said a prayer? And how many of those will DIE believing that?

    “Sinners repent” is NEVER going to be culturally relevant. The Blood and the Cross are never going to be relevant. Relevance is based on what “I” think or feel. The Bible says the heart of man is WICKED. So what the wicked heart of man deems relevant is what the Church should be forever morphing into?


  4. Part of my problem right now…and the reason for my “dogmatic” points…is that I’m preaching through Jonah to Compass Point. He was not very seeker-sensitive..and couldn’t give a rip about cultural relevance. Here he is in Nineveh…the city of his sworn enemies…a city that defined what was culturally relevant for it’s time…and yet, Jonah steps up and just says…”in 40 days God is going to destroy your city…you guys better repent”. No three-point sermon with Powerpoint and video…just a simple, in-your-face- message…and the whole city came to know God…all 600,000 of them. The single greatest recorded revival in history. It worked then…it’ll still work now. The same God of Jonah is that same God of today’s pastors. Oh no…I think I just gave away my message for Sunday. πŸ™‚


  5. Spot on, Elrod! πŸ˜€

    I have likewise had it with churches actually teaching such things. If we believe that perception is reality, the I can perceive that truth is subjective, and all is God, and pigs fly, and…

    Keep that garbage out of the house of the Lord.


  6. Chris, I enjoyed reading your post and the comments. I took our community through the book of Jonah last November and I could not agree with you more. Everybody wants a three steps to happiness sermon. That is so FAR from the message that Jonah brought to the Ninevites (eventually).

    With that said, I’m not against “Love my neighbor.” Neither are you I’m sure. I sense that if a believer seeks to understand an unbeliever(s), which is prompted by the Spirit, that can be used to Glorify God. I hope that as leaders study culture they are doing it prompted by the Spirit in an effort to build God’s Kingdom and not their own. And they better be grounded in Scripture, presenting the true gospel.

    If the info they gather leads to an approach at “teaching them the commands I gave you” in a BIBLICALLY solid way… good for them.

    Our efforts to be culturally relevant are feeble at best. But, we can use what we have learned to present the gospel (repent and believe). As leaders, the Holy and Perfect WORD better take the highest place of prominence in our lives over culture and everything else!


  7. chad myhre says:

    Sometimes the fruit of mis perception is reality … Like, per say, if I were to eat meat offered to idols in front of my offended brother….. – But, perception is not reality.


  8. The Scriptures never told us to poll unchurched people…and then come up with a plan they set forth to reach them. CE


    Fallen man’s perception of anything will be skewed, because the ruler of this present world has blinded them. The unsaved/unchurched not only cannot tell you how to reach them, they don’t know they need to be reached.

    Can you imagine Abraham asking the Lord if he could hire Barna to run a poll of the residents of Sodom to see if they needed God? Or how to reach them?

    There were common polls run in the scripture though.
    Israel wanted an earthly king, they got one.
    The Jews wanted Barabus, they got him.


  9. 1Cor. 19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    I like what you are saying Chris, that the word of God and Jesus cannot be compromised in our quest to reach those who don’t know him and make disciples. But I think you may be overstating your case a bit. It seems to me that Paul (as quoted above from the NIV) might disagree with you a little.


  10. In my studies in communications and graphic design, I remember being told “the medium is the message”. That always struck me as strange, and I see now that it’s wrong. The medium–print, web, video, bullhorn–is the medium, the message is the message, and while the medium may effect ways in which the message is presented, the two are still essentially different. One can take any particular medium, let’s say the web, and find all manner of message being put forth on it.

    There is much the same confusion in the saying “perception is reality”, and you’ve answered it pretty well, Pastor Elrod. We can see an attempt even in the NT at making a perception reality when some of the Pharisees tried to say that Jesus performed His miracles by the power of Satan. That may well have been their perception, but it was far from the reality, and spoke more of their own corruption then anything else.


  11. Charlie – Met Paul at a party once…what a jerk…we never got along. πŸ™‚

    Paul always worked hard to relate to the people he ministered to…however…I can’t find Biblical evidence that he let them direct his ministry. Even the verse you quoted above doesn’t support the “perception is reality” myth…or the fact that Paul listened to anyone but God for his guidance.

    Of course pastors are going to study their local culture…and try to relate teaching to the world in which they live. But the one thing they can’t do is change the truths of the Bible. Missional living can take on many aspects…however, preaching God’s Word can take on only one aspect…presenting it without compromise.

    How is life in California? I wish you still lived on this coast…I’d love to hook up for some Cracker Barrel. πŸ™‚


  12. I never get this many comments πŸ™‚

    Here are my thoughts – and I am commenting more on the comments now than the original post πŸ™‚

    Relevance is far from the enemy. The message of Christ communicated in a way that people understand will always be relevant. Period. The culture’s perception of the messages relevance is – irrelevant. πŸ™‚

    Our communication – through the empowering of the HS – should help connect the dots between God and man. Nothing, could be more relevant than that.


  13. Solid post Mr Elrod,

    This sort thinking comes from the business world. If I had a dollar for the amount of times a VP told me “perception is…”? Sadly we have dragged this stuff into church.


  14. Things are good in California, even though there do not seem to be nearly as many Cracker Barrels! I heard that about Paul, never met him in person, only have read his books. Paul was out among them (the folks that made up his culture) constantly preaching the gospel, he didn’t need to study them, he was with them. Kind of like Jesus, who like to party with the best of them I have heard. I really like the way you wrestle with this stuff Chris. I have a friend who tells me Jesus seemed to have two messages, one for the religious, one for the non-religious. To the religious, he said, the kingdom of God is here, repent! To the non-religious he said, let me tell you about my Father, I think you may not know him like I do! (Okay, I am way paraphrasing here!) Keep working it out and we will meet at a Cracker Barrel soon!


  15. Church Observer says:

    I’ve never yet heard the “perception is reality” argument from someone who was following God’s word to the best of his ability. Usually it’s an excuse for someone who’s not walking or struggling in some area to justify the behavior by arguing that maybe the bible, or your perception of it , which would point out the error of their ways, is flawed and doesn’t carry any over authority over them or their behavior.


  16. It’s interesting a pastor told me this a few years ago. I interpreted this statement as meaning “Perception is truth” and I knew then that perception is rarely the truth. Truth is unchanging as you said.


  17. How about ‘my perception is my reality’… Does that work Chris? I think that’s the value in the statement. It’s not about truth or reality being changed or distorted in some way. It’s a recognition that someone’s perceptions GET IN THE WAY of truth. They become reality.

    And when dealing with messy people, it’s valuable, I think, to keep in mind that their reactions, feelings and way they interact with the world are based on their view, their perceptions that make up the “reality” they live in.



  18. Except, according to those self-same relativisitc properties (well, more like quantum mechanical properties), reality does not exist without observation/perception. Like Schrodinger’s cat, and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty priniciple.

    You’re right that perception is not reality, then; rather, it causes reality.


  19. Grant Elrod says:

    Hello there Chris. I would like to make contact with you. It’s exciting to hear of someone else with my family name that serves God! Or anyone at all in that matter.


  20. Ricardo says:


    Your right on. Just ask the Enrons, the Madoffs, and the multiple religious institutions that have paid out billions sexual abuse cases.

    For sure perception is not reality.


  21. Perception is the part of man that says I know what is right because I follow my heart, forgetting that the heart is deceitful above all things and disparately wicked. There is no fear of God in them, they seek every man after his own good.(A perception)


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