I soaked in two ‘articles’ about being a specialist. In the first article, the end of 60 Minutes raised the question about the lack of family doctors compared with specialists. In the second article, D.A. Carson wrote on the trials of biblical studies. He raised the issue of theological scholars being too specialized and neglecting their study of other fields. The problem is not specializing but the loss of understanding the whole.
Often the ideas and solutions needed for your field are not found in your field. My dad made sure that I did not get ‘stuck’ in one thing. He wanted me to have a very broad and vast array of experiences to pull and learn from. This developed into a strong desire for learning and the ability to look at a problem from a variety of vantage points.
When interviewing various leaders in children’s ministry I asked what books on children’s ministry they recommend. They had recommendations, but without fail they all said the best ideas and books were not children’s ministry books. Read widely and read broadly. One conference a speaker suggested not reading everything in your field. Few books pass the test of time. Read those kinds of books.
Life is complex
The problem is not people specializing. Our culture and the vast sharing of information pushes that to happen. There are advantages to being a specialist. But, with every advantage there is often a disadvantage. The culture turned into multiple fragments. Life is a complex whole. Just think of all the news stories about unintended consequences from a solution implemented. Are we lost in the details as a culture?
Jack of all trades
We need Jack! We need people who have a broad understanding across multiple fields. They may be masters of none, but they have an understanding of the bigger picture. In thinking through the two articles and other past experiences, I agree we need more generalists, more “family doctors.” They may not be the best at fixing a particular part, but they help us avoid negative and unintended consequences from being too focused. They help us appreciate the forest and the broader work of art known as life.