If 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.