Reactive vs. Proactive Ministry

During a casual conversation at a recent Greater Europe Mission (GEM) leadership meeting, eDOT was described as an example of a reactive ministry. They didn’t understand eDOT’s core mission and incorrectly assumed that our purpose is to be GEM’s IT department in Europe and that we fix computers.

Is eDOT a reactive ministry? A proactive ministry? What’s the difference, and why is it important? To see how this works, let’s look at other occupations to see their differences, then apply that learning to eDOT.

If we think of the work of “firefighters,” we see a very reactive profession. Firefighters respond (or react) to a problem—a fire, an accident, a natural disaster—and we are thankful for their service. We may consider ambulance drivers in the same way—reactive. The ambulance is summoned in response to a problem.

An example of a proactive profession might be a city planner or a real-estate developer. In both cases, there is not a problem (per se), but potential. A real-estate developer sees the future that could be and develops a plan to meet that potential. That future and plan may not come to be realized, but that is a risk the developer is willing to take because of the potential reward.

The heart of this discussion revolves around two perspectives: problem versus potential. One perspective looks at the present and backward (“How did we get here?”), while the other perspective looks at the present and forward (“Where can we go from here?”).

Is this just semantics? You say “tow-MAY-to;” I say “tow-Ma-to?” No, the difference is motivation. One perspective looks back and seeks to solve problems that are occurring now. The other perspective looks forward to the solution of problems that don’t yet exist—potential. We NEED both perspectives! We need people who can fix existing problems, AND we need people who envision the possible future.

How does this distinction apply to eDOT? eDOT desires to be a proactive ministry. We look forward to the potential of ministry. While there are legitimate and significant needs for reactive ministry, eDOT is not called to be such a ministry.

As eDOT works with European partners, we look forward and challenge our partners to consider the future. We ask them questions like, “What does your ministry look like in the future?” From their answers, we work toward developing solutions that make way for the potential of that ministry.

In this way, eDOT seeks to be a proactive ministry. This requires that we experiment as we look toward the future, to gain perspective on the use of technology, and to meet future ministry needs. We also must continually assess the current use of technology for ministry and imagine how those technologies may be useful for ministry in the future. Using this research and experimentation, eDOT is able to suggest appropriate methods of technology with our partners as they seek to be biblically faithful and culturally relevant in the use of technology for ministry in Europe.