The advantages of disadvantages
I was chatting to a friend again yesterday about Malcolm Gladwell’s book from four or five years ago ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.’
This wasn’t a book written for a Christian audience so it is all the more admirable that Gladwell writes sympathetically and with insight about David and Goliath but this Old Testament story is only the starting point, in the introductory chapter.
When the book was first published a number of churches and preachers used Gladwell’s first chapter for his insights into David defeating Goliath. I was one of those preachers, but I’d also like to make a plea for the lessons for churches from all the non-biblical stories in the succeeding chapters.
There are especially powerful illustrations and insights for churches seeking to rethink how they do what they do, to think in terms of creative bold experiments.
Gladwell make two points that I believe have a clear message for the church today.
The first is that, when we look hard for them, there are advantages to facing disadvantages. The act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.
Secondly, that we consistently misread and misinterpret conflicts. ‘Giants’ are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness – that there are in fact disadvantages to facing advantages.
In many ways as churches and church leaders we find ourselves as “Davids” in a world full of “Goliaths”. Into this context Gladwell steps in and effectively says ‘Good! Make the most of the position you find yourself in.’
For all those exploring new ways of doing church, there are lessons for us beyond chapter one. If you are looking for a story of changing the ‘rules of the game’ to play to one’s strengths, then have a look beyond the David and Goliath chapter at Vivek Ranadive the basketball coach or Teresa DeBrito the school principal or David Boies who has dyslexia and many more.
May we, through prayer and the power of God discover the greatness and beauty that comes from facing overwhelming odds. May we discover that the giants of our age have significant weaknesses. If the times are getting more difficult for churches and Christians may be discover the advantages of disadvantages.