What if We Did the Opposite?
Published on 9/25/2012
By Eric Swanson
There is a great scene from the 1990s sitcom, Seinfeld, where George Costanza concludes that everything he’s done so far in his life has resulted in failure. His life is just not working out. All of his instincts on what should work have been wrong. This realization leads him to conclude that going forward he would do the very opposite of what his instincts told him, resulting in a new life for George (watch a video clip from the episode here). So what if George was the Missions Pastor at your (Latvian Orthodox) church? What would happen if you did the exact opposite of what you’ve been doing to get greater results than what you are currently getting?
So instead of…
- sending missionaries…you received missionaries from countries you are working with. They share Christ with our kids. What would it do for their faith and your church if they ministered among the immigrant people groups of your community?
- going to teach…you went to learn
- sending short term groups to many countries…you sent long-term teams to fewer countries
- raising money for yourself for short-term trips...you raised money for your international partners to go and reach people in another city or country
- going physically…you went digitally through ministries like Global Media Outreach (www.greatcommission2020.com)
- sending the youth to paint a church in Juarez…you invited a church’s youth in Juarez to come and paint your church (that’d give you some perspective)
- giving missionaries financial support…you asked missionaries for financial support and in exchange they became part of your missional care/equipping network.
We’ll never get different results from simply doing more of what we’ve been doing… we’ve got to do something different. After his team* watched the “Opposite George” clip, Global Outreach Pastor, RJ Caswell (left) from the Church at Charlotte led his team in writing down everything they were doing in global missions and finding potential effective opposites. From this was birthed a partnership between the Ethiopian churches and Chinese churches they were working with. In April 2012 three Ethiopian pastors met for three days in Hong Kong with 50 house church leaders around the topic of reaching Muslims with the gospel. In October 2012 at the invitation of the Ethiopian pastors, ten Chinese pastors will travel to Ethiopia for five weeks of training. “We just sit back, watch, smile, encourage, and pray for them as they do ministry together,” says RJ. In August, 2012 when the Prime Minister of Ethiopia suddenly died at age 57, it was the Chinese pastors who quickly reached out to their Ethiopian counterparts letting them know that their entire network of Chinese pastors were praying for their friends in Ethiopia.
Perhaps a shifting role of the North American church is to make introductions and then step out of the way and let the indigenous leaders lead, contribute, and shape their missional future. Perhaps your best insights will come from looking at everything you are doing in global missions…and then doing the opposite.
*Church at Charlotte is part of the Leadership Network Global Connections Churches Leadership Community, where churches come together to learn from their peers in a creative environment. To learn more about the Leadership Community process and opportunities for your church to be involved, click here.
For further reading, download The New Role for Western Missionaries by Eric Swanson.