equipping the weakest

While I was flying, I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell talk about major donations. He said that big gifts to less exclusive schools are more valuable to the community than the same gift to really exclusive schools. 100 million for an engineering school at a regional state institution, for example, has greater impact than 100 million for building Stanford’s endowment.

starHe referred to the difference between basketball and soccer. In basketball, one or two stars on a team can make a difference that outweighs lesser players. In soccer, however, your weak players are more important than your strong players. Because it takes so many passes to get to a goal, the weakest players give more opportunity to the other team to steal and score themselves. (Apparently, it’s developed more in The Numbers Game.)

The point, Gladwell says, is to invest in the improvement of the weaker players rather than giving so much to the already strong players.

And I started thinking about the emphasis that Jesus placed on improving weaker players. He talked about the importance of the least and the unimportance of the greatest. He identified himself with the least. He commanded caring in appropriate ways for the sick, homeless, hungry, and imprisoned. He described and modeled love as service, from washing feet to touching unclean people to conversing with outcast women and tax collectors.

He said that our love for each other, especially the weakest players on the team, is what would make us distinctive.

I’m not sure we live like we believe that. I think that we support heroes more. And already strong people. But our strength as a community formed by and around Jesus rests not in how much we create heroes as how much we love everyone, friends and enemies alike.

8 thoughts on “equipping the weakest

  1. Al Manning

    I am really touched by this post. I have never heard this idea presented this way although it makes sense.Love for each other especially the weaker players on our team make us distinctive. I have always found the church lacking in this area. Thanks for approaching this topic. You have made me think once again.


    1. Jon Swanson

      I think there are individuals that are very good at this, there are groups that are good, but as whole groups, as public perceptions, we lack. So the challenge individually is to live this. The challenge for leaders/coaches is to make this valuing be at our core. Thanks Al.


  2. Alexander Lobban

    This has really moved me as I believe that as you say equip the weakest and you will profit much more than glorifying the strongest.Your team will benefit so much as the weakest will feel as they are part of the team not as a spare part.


  3. Gary Mintchell

    That is a great insight. The soccer analogy is spot on. Similar to a book we manufacturing geeks studied–“The Goal” by Eliyahu Goldratt. No factory can produce more than its slowest machine. You work on that machine to improve the entire factory. Goldratt compared to a Boy Scout troop on a hike. The fastest kids took off and left the rest behind. Then they had to wait. Then the leaders put the slowest kids in front, and the troop stayed together with less frustration of waiting all the time. The slower kids felt better as leaders and could actually pick up the pace, since they didn’t feel so discouraged.

    Taking those thoughts to all manner of spiritual and/or church life is not something I’d considered. Works for your church committee. Your team. Your mission group. It builds up the weaker just as Jesus would have us do.


  4. ben

    I find the following Rich Mullins’ observation in his song “Brother’s Keeper” to be quite challenging and aligned to this post: “I will be my brother’s keeper/ not the one who judges him/ I won’t despise him
    for his weakness/ I won’t regard him for his strength/ I won’t take away his freedom/ I will help him learn to stand”


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