The Popular Christian Article We Need Fewer Of

article confidence experience Christian computer

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.

10 Comments

  1. Excellent article Aaron! As a blogger myself, I really needed to read this. It’ll help balance me out before I try to tackle a subject better suited for others to write on. (-: God bless you, brother. May the Lord use you on this blog for His glory!

  2. Missy Dollahon Reply

    Indeed. Nowadays, Paul would have barely been home from Emmaus before he had a book deal and a speaking tour.

  3. Jenny Reply

    And as a single woman, there’s really nothing quite like reading an article about singleness written by a 21-year old 🙂

  4. NATHAN Reply

    Kind of like the slam-dunk answers given to LGBT. Where is the humility? Most pastors and their followers have absolutely no idea the dynamic going on, but are full of bold answers.

  5. Barb Reply

    Beautifully said, Aaron! This is my first read of an article you wrote! I’ll look for more. I am that person! I was so confident of my incredible parenting skills when my first born was 3 years old and her baby brother was yet to arrive, I actually boasted about writing a brilliant parenting book and I was a math major! Enter humility with 2nd born, continued humbling with 3 and 4. I was a stay-at-home mom long before the title was cool. In other news, I had an idealic marriage before 20 years and after 24. More humility! I am beyond grateful for God’s great grace! For His sovereign power which overrides my fragile faith! In Christ, He has given me 46 years of marriage and counting! Four amazing children married to four wonderful mates and 14 beautiful grandbabes! I know less and know more with each passing day. Yay!! Thank you, Lord!

  6. JB Reply

    I agree with what you’ve written. Experience is important for building wisdom.

    I do want to add some to the qualifications you mention.

    We’re led to believe Elihu is a young man. He rebukes Job and his friends and is himself not rebuked by God later in the book of Job. Consider these words from John Piper ( http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/let-the-young-speak ):

    “What Elihu has done is remove age as the dominant consideration in deciding who is wise and understanding. He teaches us that there may be folly in the old and folly in the young; wisdom in the young and wisdom in the old. When we search for a source of wisdom, we do not end our search with the question, “How old is he?” We end it with the question, “Who has the Spirit of wisdom and understanding?””

    We also see similar themes in Paul’s advice to Timothy. We don’t know Timothy’s exact age, but he’s young enough that Paul warns him that his youth might compromise his reputation (1 Timothy 4:12).

    Experience is important, but let’s not fall into a genetic fallacy. If something is wise, it’s wise whether it’s recommended by a child (the emperor has no clothes?) or an elderly person. One hopes, though, that the older one becomes, the more intentionally they will pursue wisdom, whereas younger folks may just stumble upon it.

    • I definitely agree with your point. There are clearly exceptions to my broad point of more experience means more wisdom.

      The more mature should not reject wisdom because it comes from a younger voice. There are areas where youth grants perspective an older person may not have.

      But I do think the overall point holds that in a culture that so values “new,” we need to place special emphasis on the wisdom frequently gained through experience.

      • JB, I appreciate your point too, but (and this is my age and experience speaking), mature older Christians will discern the wisdom youth brings forward, much more than expedient inexperienced younger Christians discern the wisdom elders bring forward. Elihu and Timothy are fewer and far between than our generation realizes and accepts. The Apostle John was considered the youngest Apostle, beloved disciple, but only wrote five books/letters of the New Testament after approx 25 years labour.
        Thank you for this article.

    • Nicholas Reply

      I don’t think anything in Aaron’s writing goes against the point you’re making JB. And I don’t doubt for a moment that Aaron couldn’t write an equally long post with points parallel to your comment about what the young generation has to offer. I got the overall vibe of “The advice of the inexperienced should be held loosely.”

      This past month I read both Mere Christianity and The Pilgrim’s Regress. In both books Lewis talks about how we needn’t be on one side or another, if we feel that pull, that is the devil getting at us. I too have been in the state where I have frustration towards how I feel my opinion has little value because of my young age. But who am I kidding! I’ve hardly been around and have this expectation that people should value my advice or opacinions just as much as those decades older than me?

      This is where topics like this get difficult. The general rule is: age equals wisdom; anything beyond that is a special case and we don’t have time (at least I don’t) to get into special cases.

      I agree with both points.

  7. Walt Reply

    Leaving aside the problem of young mommybloggers, there is this problem of barely-adult children of parachurch founders writing articles that are passed-off as Holy Writ. The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and other para-church organizations give these kids a platform they otherwise would not have. It’s a big problem because Dad’s money allowed them to live in a nice neighborhood and avoid exposure to the day-to-day grind experienced by other families and fathers. In addition to being young and lacking in wisdom, they were allowed to grow up in realm of idealism whereas Scripture calls everyone to realism. As you said so eloquently, so much of our decision making depends on circumstances (WLC 99).

Leave a Reply

About Author

Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.