The “Experts” Can’t Always Help You

Stop following the so-called expertsIf only there were a formula.

We are promised that if we follow a formula we will have success. We love formulas. Give me the formula for a happy marriage, for perfect parenting, for successful church planting, for church growth. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.

In a recent interview, author Seth Godin was asked about his writing process. Here is his conclusion:

“The biggest takeaway for anyone seeking to write is this: don’t go looking for the way other authors do their work. You won’t find many who are consistent enough to copy, and there are enough variations in approach that it’s obvious that it’s not like hitting home runs or swinging a golf club. There isn’t a standard approach, there’s only what works for you (and what doesn’t).”

Reading this quote caused me to think about how often we look for “experts” to tell us how to do things in easy ways that don’t require us to think. We follow leaders. We want answers.

But with many of life’s issues, there are no easy formulas.

In the search for the perfect way, we end up jumping from one method to another. Or we so vigorously commit to one way and then run around trying to convince everyone else that we have found THE way.

In 43 years of life, Church Planting, Pastoring, Starting Businesses, 20 years of Marriage, 15 years of Parenting, and coaching hundreds of leaders, here are four things that I have learned regarding the “Experts”:

1. You often must find your own personal process.

There might not be a book that tells you what to do. You might have to pray, think, get advice, and make your decision.

2. What worked in my context won’t necessarily work in yours.

My marriage is not your marriage. My kids are not your kids. Church planting in Suburban California is not the same animal as Church planting in Hoboken, New Jersey or Bardstown, Kentucky. Successful leaders learn to discern what is cultural and what is universally transferable: This is a level of thinking that requires work and creativity.

3. The “Experts” can’t always help you.

Anyone can write a book. Everyone has an opinion. But the author or “Expert” does not know your marriage, family background, cultural context, family dynamics, or skill set. There is often no formula. The “Experts” can’t always help you. Sometimes you have to listen, reflect, consider your context and make a decision. God created you in his image. He created you to listen, to process, to pray, to think, to reason, to create, to discern and to decide.

4. Commit to real relationships and have many mentors.

Though the experts can’t always help us, the people we surround ourselves with do often help us. You aren’t competent in every area. Sometimes you do need to be told what to do. Life is meant to be lived in relationship. Don’t reject wise advice or to function as an intellectual island. Live in community. Read, listen, and ask for advice. Be teachable and have mentors. Other people do have much to teach us.

What are your thoughts on this? Please comment and add your insight!

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Posted by Brian Howard

My focus is to help YOU move forward one step at a time. I write about church excellence, personal productivity, and family leadership. I coach leaders, start churches, and help organizations break growth barriers. My goal is to draw on this experience to help YOU move forward in life, leadership, and productivity.

  1. I like the article overall. However, I struggle with giving a hearty amen to points 3 & 5. I am too often running into people who believe they are omnicompetent. They believe they are the experts on everything from education to nutrition to theology. They are not. They need to listen to experts. I agree there is a guru mentality out there. I also believe there is a growing sense of omnicompetence that is dangerous (thanks in no small part to google). Point 5 sounds super positive and affirming, but I’m not sure it is true. Lots of people aren’t creative and brilliant. They ought to ask others to even consider making decisions for them. Perhaps a better way to say what I mean is that no one is creative and brilliant in every regard. I need brothers to tell me what to do on certain topics. They need me to do the same. I know you say as much in the article, but I find the emphasis on that to be a bit weak.


    1. Chad,

      thanks for helping me clarify! In fact, I went back and re-wrote a few things as a result of this great feedback. I don’t run into people who think that they are omni-competent very often but that person would certainly not need this post. I am writing to leaders who are often looking for quick fixes rather than to put in the hard work of assessing their context and situation. Thanks for seeing the weak spots in this post. They are now fixed! (I hope)


    2. I certainly think that Brian is aware that not all people are creative or even brilliant. If Brian believed that all were gifted in these areas, we can also say he wouldn’t have a livelihood, since he consults many on areas where they exhibit gaps in these very areas. My takeaway from Brian’s comments is this: Many people ARE creative and brilliant and they don’t use those energies, attributes, and insights to move courageously and assertively in areas (goals and ideas) that they should trust God with for the outcome. I’m reminded of some great wisdom from my days with Campus Crusade for Christ. Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God. The word, “walk” implies that we need to take up a little courage to be creative and even innovative at the risk of failing, knowing that God can better drive the ship when it’s moving than when it’s idle. I’m also reminded of how many successful plans finally came together by creative and brilliant people after multiple failed attempts. Yes, we should utilize experts but I think Brian’s point is better taken when we consider how often we are paralyzed by fear instead of moving on our (maybe even God’s) plans…


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