Urban Leadership Collective: Experts, Not Enthusiasts
design by Joe Richardson
John Onwuchekwa is the pastor at Blueprint Church in Atlanta, GA.
Here’s the problem
Had a conversation with a good friend of mine this past week as we were on the back porch grilling. Having just celebrated a birthday, we were talking about the “good ole days” and what’s wrong with these “young bucks” nowadays. My good friend shared with me a story about a guy he had a conversation with. He asked the younger guy what he was “learning.” The younger dude responded by recounting all the books he was reading, restating all of the quotes that he tweeted from the books that he read. When he got done, my friend repeated the question, “so what are you learning? Out of all the life-changing quotes that you just restated, what are you applying…how is your life being changed?” Surprisingly (or not surprisingly depending on what category you fall into) the guy was silent. His silence answered the question with a resounding NOTHING. I’m reading, I’m studying, I’m processing….but I’m not learning anything.
We need Experts, not enthusiasts
Here’s my fear for our community. My fear is that our overemphasis on “rightness” is producing a lot of enthusiasts and very few experts. Let me explain it like this. Imagine you’re sitting in a room and the topic of cars comes up (something I know very little about). In walk a 12-year old who is a car enthusiast and a professional Nascar driver. As they start to talk about cars and argue the finer points of the sport (if you would be so bold as to call it that), you become impressed because the 12- year old is holding his own. He can go toe to toe with the Nascar driver about the finer points of cars, how to make high speed turns, etc. At points in the conversation he even seems to be “winning” and making better points than the Nascar driver, which is even more impressive. Here’s my question for you. If you had to ride in car with one of them while sitting in the passenger seat with no seatbelt, who would you choose? If the room was filled with 100 other people, who would they choose?
The 12-year old can argue all day and by doing so think that he and the Nascar driver are peers; however, one by one as people choose the driver they are going to follow, it becomes painfully obvious that was people need are experts, not enthusiasts. These are the people that lead. This is what our community desperately needs.
We have a lot of enthusiasts as it relates to holiness, we have a lot of enthusiasts as it relates to stewardship, we have a lot of enthusiasts as it relates to Bible knowledge and theology, but what I’ve found is that we have very few experts, very few practitioners. If you’re only an enthusiast as it relates to holiness, there’s a word for that. Hypocrite.
If that’s you, here’s my advice.
Don’t feel the pressure to memorize Systematic Theology by next week to impress your friends, leaders, or the people that follow you. Don’t feel the pressure to read a whole lot of books this year, just to reach a certain status in the eyes of people that around you. Don’t feel the pressure to insert yourself into Twitter conversations with your heroes to prove that you know a lot. Slow Down….this isn’t a race. Take some time and soak up the things that you’re reading. Surround yourself with people that will ask you the so what question. Start practicing the things you talk about.
After you study, get in the car and take a few laps around the track. You’ll find out that you might actually learn something.
You can follow John Onwuchekwa on Twitter @jawno