The internet could use more of a lot of things. It could use more hilarious gifs, more cute animal pictures, and absolutely more people being nice. But there’s one thing it could use fewer of—Christians speaking with simultaneous confidence and inexperience.
Everyone has opinions, but few have wisdom.
In ministry, the guy still in seminary or the youth pastor with little responsibilities has the most to say about the right way to lead a church.
In life, no one is more confident about the best way to raise children into adults than the parents of a newborn. No one has more advice to give about making a marriage work than newlyweds.
I’ve been there. I know from personal experience what it’s like to speak confidently from inexperience.
You gained some of the knowledge, but little of the wisdom. Your brilliant opinions haven’t been tested. The overconfidence comes because you haven’t encountered the humbling, difficult moments.
Of course it all works in your head, but what happens those ideas encounter the acid test of reality?
A parent who’s at their wits end with a middle schooler suddenly realizes things aren’t as simple as they believed. A husband or wife who is struggling with loving their spouse in the midst of yet another argument no longer has quick fix answers for all their soon-to-be married friends.
Despite it being falsely attributed to Winston Churchill, there is still wisdom in the saying, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” But it is impossible to look at the results, if you don’t wait for them to occur.
Giving yourself as much experience as possible before attempting to teach others will benefit both you and those who will potentially learn from you. The beautiful strategy you’ve developed needs results by which it can be tested and improved.
Yes, this is a generality, so let me respond to some potential objections.
This is not about central teachings of the faith or obvious biblical wisdom. You don’t need 30 years of marriage to know you’re not supposed to cheat on your spouse. You can be a brand new parent and still understand you should pray for your child.
I should also add that individuals with little experience can make positive contributions to discussions of parenting and marriage. God can teach us quickly and He absolutely equips us for the tasks He has set before us.
Also, you may have been thrust into leadership positions before you feel ready. The fact that you don’t feel ready is a good sign (not a bad one).
In general, however, with those exceptions understood, the fewer years of experience we have, the slower we should be to speak as an expert.
The longer I’ve been married and been a parent, the more I know how much I don’t know about either. It has changed the way I write here.
I blog less about marriage and parenting, not because I think those subjects aren’t as important. In fact, I’ve come to value those topics more. Rather, I simply trust my opinion about them less.
Even on the decisions I’ve made as a husband or dad that I still feel confident about, I’m more open to those merely being what worked in our specific circumstances. Simply because God taught me a lesson in my situation does not automatically mean He intends that lesson for others in their situation.
Yet when you look across the internet, you find Christian women who are stay-at-home moms to one infant blogging confidently about the proper way for every other moms to find the perfect work-home balance.
Couples who haven’t even had to decide with whose parents to spend the holidays yet will boldly tell other husbands and wives how to avoid conflict and develop fruitful marriages.
Unfortunately, our culture values expediency much more than experience. We want to be first, even if we aren’t right. And Christians have embraced this backwards mindset as much or more than most.
Writers and speakers want to build platforms and personal brands as soon as possible. They don’t feel as though they have the time to wait.
If a person achieves even a tiny amount of notoriety, they want to use that to build their name and establish themselves as experts before actually putting in the work and gaining the experience.
That’s the exact opposite of the path in Scripture. God used Moses only after he spent decades tending sheep in anonymity. David was anointed king of Israel, but went back to work on his father’s farm.
Paul spent years studying in the desert and then serving in a local church before God called him out as a missionary. Jesus didn’t begin His public ministry until He was in His thirties.
If Christians really wanted to be counter-cultural, we would work to reclaim and proclaim the value of experience.
Even more than cute animals, our culture needs to see someone prioritize others above their personal platform. More than funny gifs, those around us need to see a desire to gain experience more than influence.
The internet has enough untested opinions, it needs more tried experience—especially from Christians.