The Rule Breaker

Mark Batterson

It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.

John 5:10 ESV

Dr. Evan O’Neill Kane performed more than four thousand surgeries during his distinguished career as chief surgeon at Kane Summit Hospital, but his greatest contribution to medicine was as a pioneer in the use of local anesthesia. Dr. Kane believed that general anesthesia was an unnecessary risk for patients with heart conditions and allergic reactions, so he set out to prove his point by performing major surgery using nothing more than a local anesthesia. On February 15, 1921, his patient was prepped for surgery and wheeled into the operating room. After local anesthesia was administered, Dr. Kane cut the patient open, clamped the blood vessels, removed the patient’s appendix, and stitched the wound. Two days after surgery, the patient was released from the hospital. The patient was none other than Dr. Evan O’Neill Kane, and his self-surgery changed standard operating room procedure.

Up until the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City, world-class high jumpers used the straddle technique, the Western roll, or the scissors jump. Then along came Dick Fosbury. None of those traditional techniques suited his six-foot, five-and-a-half-inch body type, so Fosbury experimented with a shoulders-first, face-up technique. His high school coach opposed his unorthodox approach, but Fosbury went on to win the gold medal in Mexico and set a new Olympic record of seven feet, four-and-a-quarter inches. At the next Olympic games, twenty-eight out of forty competitors used the technique named after the man who changed his sport forever—the Fosbury Flop.

On July 29, 1588, the Spanish Armada sailed into the English Channel with the goal of turning Great Britain into a Spanish colony. Spain was the world’s greatest naval power, and the Armada of 130 ships was nicknamed the Invincible Fleet. The English were outnumbered and outgunned, but they unveiled a new tactic of naval combat that changed the rules of engagement. Instead of boarding enemy ships and engaging in hand-to-hand combat, the English used long-range cannons to sink half of the Spanish fleet without losing a single ship of their own.

If you want to repeat history, do it the way it’s always been done. If you want to change history, do it the way it’s never been done before. History makers are rule breakers. And no one was better at it than the One who wrote the rules in the first place!


Here are 3 rules that Rule Breakers, aka Change Makers, actually keep.


#1 Thou Shall Offend Pharisees

One of the most important decisions leaders make is this: who are you going to offend? You’re going to offend someone—that’s for sure. Just make sure it isn’t God.

Jesus could have healed the invalid on any day of the week, but He chose to perform this miracle on the Sabbath. He knew it would rile up the religious establishment, and I wonder if that’s why He did it. Jesus offended the Pharisees with great intentionality and consistency. And, I might add, enjoyment.

If you follow in the footsteps of Jesus, you will offend some Pharisees along the way. In fact, there are situations where you need to go out of your way to do so. That is not a license to break the law. It is, however, permission to break man-made rules that don’t honor God. The great irony of this story is that while the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the law, they were the ones breaking the spirit of the law by trying to keep what they thought was the letter of the law.

Leaders don’t major in minors. They keep the main thing the main thing. And they aren’t afraid to break rules because that’s what leads to break throughs.


#2 Thou Shalt Think Different

According to cybernetic theory, there are two types of change.

First-order change is behavioral—it’s doing things differently. If you’re trying to lose weight, eating less and exercising more are steps in the right direction. And first-order change can help you hit your goal. But it is incremental change that happens little by little. Second-order change is quantum change that happens all at once. It’s a paradigm shift that fundamentally reframes the way we see our problems, see ourselves, or see our lives. Second-order change is conceptual—it’s seeing things differently.

First-order change is matter over mind.

Second-order change is mind over matter.

Most of our problems are perceptual. The solution isn’t doing something different. It’s thinking about the problem differently. As Albert Einstein is said to have observed, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were on when we created them.”3

According to MIT researcher Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, most people try to solve a problem as it is presented. And that is precisely why many problems remain unsolved. If Jesus had tried to solve the invalid’s problem as presented, He would have repositioned the man closer to the pool of Bethesda so he had pole position when the water was stirred. But that first-order change would have resulted in more of the same. So Jesus changed his life by changing the rules.


#3 Thou Shalt Ask Questions

According to the research of Rolf Smith, children ask 125 probing questions per day. Adults, on the other hand, ask only six probing questions per day. That means that somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we lose 119 questions per day! At some point, most of us stop asking questions and start making assumptions. That is the day our imagination dies. It’s also the day miracles stop happening. If you want to experience the miraculous, you need to quit making assumptions.

I Corinthians 8:2 says, “He who thinks He knows does not yet know as he ought to know.” Translation: the more you know the more you know how much you don’t know.

Half of faith is learning what we don’t know. The other half is unlearning what we do know. And the second half is far more difficult than the first half. That’s why Jesus repeatedly said, “You have heard that it was said. but I tell you.” He was uninstalling Old Testament assumptions with New Testament revelations. Going the extra mile or turning the other cheek was more than behavior modification. Jesus was reverse engineering the old rules and installing new ones.


One of my deepest-held convictions is this: there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. But if you want God to do something new, you cannot keep doing the same old thing. Dare to be different.

This article is an excerpt from Mark Batterson's newest book, The Grave Robber.

Mark Batterson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker. The lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, Mark has a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Mark will be opening up our Catalyst LABS day at Catalyst Atlanta this year, on October 1st. To learn more about Catalyst, and to register for this years conference visit

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