Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Amateurs Built the Ark While Experts Built the Titanic

    Much is made of consulting an expert in today's world.  We seek expert advice and counsel.  Television news shows are filled with a panel of experts covering a number of issues. When it comes to the medical field, we have experts (or specialists) in every field.  Certainly when I go to have surgery, I depend on having an expert.  When I have my taxes done or even when the church seeks outside help, a certain amount of expertise is needed.  However, I wonder if we sometimes over estimate expertise.  Are there other qualities other than mere competence or expertise that need to be considered?  Is it enough just to have knowledge about a subject?  Is it possible that even the experts can get it wrong in a number of ways?
    As we ponder these questions, it might be beneficial to compare two of the greatest vessels ever assembled in history-the Titanic and Noah's ark.  There is no question that the Titanic was built and designed by a team of experts.  It was the most glorious ocean vessel of its day.  It had all the luxuries and amenities that went beyond anything built in its era.  It was a symbol of human ingenuity and progress.  Yet there was one fatal flaw-the designers felt they had a ship in which nothing could go wrong.  Perhaps it was a ship that could never sink.  As a result, small details were ignored. The possibility of icebergs and evacuation procedures were not even considered.  The real problem was that these so-called "experts" were way too sure of themselves and their ability to build the perfect ship.  The rest is history (not to mention the theme of movies and books!)
     Turning the clock back to many years earlier, we look at another ship builder.  In Genesis 6, there was a man named Noah who answered God's call to build an Ark.  Certainly he was no shipbuilder when he first heard the call though he did have some skills as a builder.  But Noah had one thing going.  He was willing to learn from God and he followed the Lord's instructions.  Genesis 7:5 summarizes these events by saying that "Noah did all that the Lord commanded him."  In Noah, we see a man who did not  have any pretense about what he was building.  We see nothing of the attitude that "I am going to build the biggest and best vessel ever made." Instead, we see a man who simply followed God's instructions and learned on the way.  He became an expert shipbuilder because of his willingness to follow orders.
     As I think about these two examples in history, it is evident that this has tremendous implications for me as I consult with churches.  In my consultation, my desire is not to go in as an expert with a sure-fire way of turning around a church.  It is true that in my many years of ministry, I have learned a few things and that the Lord has given me the training and skills to do this kind of work, but what it comes down to for me is whether I am willing to follow orders.  Am I willing to listen to God's instructions and to the churches that I am serving?  Any task requires a certain amount of expertise, but more importantly, what is really needed is a willingness to be led by the wisdom of God and to have a spirit that is willing to be taught.  My prayer when I consult churches is that I will not come across as a "know-it-all" who is unwilling to learn. Instead I pray that I can serve the church and together we can discover the great things God wants to do.  Noah started out as an amateur who became an expert because of his willingness to learn along the way the plans God had for him while the experts of the Titanic became foolishly amateur-like when the unsinkable ship tragically ended up on the ocean floor. In whatever God calls us to do, we can go in either direction.  May we choose the way of Noah!


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