I find it interesting that in Christian ministry circles we tend to reinvent what other people are already doing. Sometimes we’ll create a Christianized version of what secular organizations are already doing (and often doing well) or almost identically replicate what other ministries are already doing simply because it doesn’t have our ministry’s name attached to it. Just so we’re clear, I’m saying “we” because I’ve done this myself. As I contemplate this, it’s led me to ask several questions:
- Is reinventing the wheel the best use of our time, energy, and resources?
- Does reinventing the wheel produce greater kingdom impact or unneeded fragmentation and competition?
- Does reinventing the wheel (especially concerning what secular groups are doing) really better enable us to be “salt and light” in our communities?
- Is my own motivation to sometimes reinvent the wheel rooted in promoting myself, propping up my own self-worth, or sacrificially serving others in Jesus’ name?
Here are a few thoughts:
- If someone is already doing what you feel compelled to do, see how you can partner with them. If you’re partnering with a secular organization you’ll often get the opportunity to display Jesus not only to the people you’re serving but also to the people you serve alongside. When you sacrificially serve shoulder to shoulder with others over a period of time you will get to know what motivates each other.
- Sometimes Christians feel weird about partnering with secular service organizations because the org doesn’t wear a Christian label or it holds to some values that may not jive with orthodox Christian beliefs. Remember that what makes something “Christian” is not merely the label but whether the people serving (this means you) love Jesus, care about others, and are empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. Just focus on working together in areas where you share common ground values.
- Rather than reinvent what others are doing, we need to prayerfully look for the “gaps” in our community. I’ve lived in suburban Atlanta, urban NJ, and now progressive Burlington, VT. All three are very different places, yet I’ve never found any lack of unmet needs or wide open opportunities waiting for a person or group with a little initiative. As we fill these gaps, though, we need to intentionally invite others (including those we serve) to be a part of the service and solution.
- As Christian ministries we need to intentionally look for ways to collaborate together rather than compete. Sometimes we allow relatively minor theological or philosophical differences to cause major riffs between ministries. I’m fairly certain that the resulting competition and fragmentation prevents us from fully displaying “the body of Christ” to our community in the manner that God desires. I’m NOT saying that all local churches in a community should strive to be one big local church, BUT I am saying they should intentionally befriend each other and seek to work together… we do share the same Father.
Oh yeah, one last thing: this can be messy =)
One thought on “Don’t reinvent the wheel”
Kevin, I agree we need to get away from an “Us or Them” state of mind and think in the terms by which Jesus sets the example. In that vain, isn’t the ultimate goal still the hope of conversion at some point? Or bringing them in to the workings of the body of Christ?