The upside of inexperience by Mark Batterson


You’re too young and inexperienced.” I Samuel 17:33.

That is what Saul said to David when he wanted to challenge Goliath. And it was true, IF David had tried to engage Goliath in a conventional sword fight. But David changed the rules. He didn’t approach Goliath as a warrior. He approached him as a shepherd. He introduced an unconventional method of warfare: the slingshot. That long-range weapon gave David a unique advantage over his more experienced opponent. In a sense, he overcame his weaknesses by playing to his strengths.

Can I make an observation? Inexperience is both a liability and an asset. And the upside of inexperience is this: you don’t know what can’t be done. So you’re not afraid of doing old things in new ways. You take risks. You make mistakes. You experiment with new methodologies.

If we had a little more experience, part of me wonders if we would have never built a coffeehouse. Why? Because churches build churches. But we had just enough sanctified inexperience. Instead of asking why, we asked why not.

This week I read about a fascinating study done by political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft. He surveyed every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths won 71.5% of the time. But when the Davids chose an unconventional strategy, their winning percentage was 63.6%. In other words, when Davids decide that they aren’t going to play on Goliaths terms, they win two-thirds of the time.

So how do you fight in unconventional terms if you are a David? Sometimes it’s substituting effort for ability. Davids need to work harder than Goliaths. Sometimes its doing something in a new way. But the bottom line is this: you cannot fight Goliath on Goliath’s terms or you will lose. You have to change the rules. You have to get unconventional.

If we do church in conventional ways we’ll get conventional results. We desperately need more unconventional leaders who will use their slingshots to advance the kingdom. I have a core conviction that drives me: there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. Listen, I thank God for traditions. And I love traditional churches. But I think its unconventional leaders and unconventional churches that will reach emerging generations. Or maybe another way of saying it is this: we need leaders who are orthodox in theology but unorthodox in praxis.