“Smart has the plans…

…stupid has the stories”

So declared the window display I saw in a Carnaby Street shop at the weekend.

The message they were ‘selling’, of course – this being Carnaby Street – was ‘Forget your carefully-laid plans, your profit-and-loss forecasts, your risk assessment forms; spontaneity is way more fun.  Experiences matter, not results.’

You may be expecting me to denounce this as shallow and irresponsible, but I’m not going to. Not entirely.

Planning is important, but it strikes me that the people who change things in this world have had a healthy mixture of plans and ‘stupidity’.

A few decades ago, the missions organisation OM had a vision for taking Bibles to India.  They would set off from Europe in battered, rundown, ancient vans that you wouldn’t normally trust to get you to the corner shop, and drove across the continents, over mountain ranges and through deserts to take the Word of God to those who were crying out for it.

It didn’t take them long to realise that this was not only incredibly dangerous and fraught with difficulties and discomforts, but also – and more importantly in their minds – incredibly inefficient.

Then one day, during a prayer meeting, someone had a crazy idea – why not buy a ship , he thought?  That way we can carry far more books, we can have somewhat more comfortable accommodation on the journey, and we can get more Bibles to more people more quickly.  Win, win, win!

This crazy dreamer met and prayed with some more down-to-earth planners who, realising this was a God-idea not just a man-one, arranged the million-and-one details necessary to make a crazy dream a reality (remember that at this point the organisation couldn’t even afford a couple of vans in good working order – where were they going to find a seaworthy vessel with all the facilities they needed, let alone qualified seamen to sail it round the world?). 

But they did it. 40-odd years later, OM has recently launched its fourth ship, Logos Hope, and the ship ministry has distributed tens of millions of Bibles, tracts and other excellent literature in scores of countries around the world (including India).

They couldn’t have done it without the perfect blend of stupid idea and practicality.

The editor of one of OM’s publications recently wrote this:

A titan of the technology world expressed his fears of competition in predicting the next industry-changing invention.  He seldom though about fellow giant corporations, who had an enormous footprint that, if anything, hindered their ability to react quickly to change. “What I really lay awake thinking about,” he said, “are those two guys in a garage somewhere.” Bill Hewlett and David Packard played around with oscillators and formed Hewlett Packard.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak forming Apple; Larry Page and Sergey Brin creating Google – it’s a long list, and still being written.  Even better, the story of mission today is an even longer list of a handful of people with an urgent vision which they pursued against all odds.  They’re changing the rules of mission as they go, and its becoming viral.  These are my heroes.

A couple of guys in a garage with a crazy idea and a knack for planning can change the world.  The task looks huge, but this inspires me, and I hope it does you.  Let’s not be those “cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”[1]

Let’s be smart enough to plan, but stupid enough to come back with some great God-stories!

[1] Theodore Roosevelt

No Comments On This Topic
  1. Peter P
    on Mar 16th at 5:46 pm

    Great post, Jennie.

    Let’s also not forget Bill gates and Paul Allen dropping out of Harvard or somewhere to pursue the idea of writing something called software for these things that might one day be called computers!

    • newsong40
      on Mar 16th at 9:30 pm

      Indeed. And the even more ‘stupid’ thing was that they promised they would be able to deliver before they’d written a single line of what would come to be called ‘code’. They had a huge task, but committing to it by telling someone they could do it made them accountable. It kind of paid off…!

      • Peter P
        on Mar 17th at 6:00 am

        AND…. they only got the contract with IBM for DOS that made them millionaires because they actually turned up to deliver their sales pitch and the other people (cp/m) didn’t.

        Says a lot for actually doing things huh…


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