Is a negative spin ever positive?

I lead a church planting team. God wants to transform our region of Mexico with the gospel, and I have a deep desire to see that happen. I, therefore, am trying to be a more and more effective leader.

Talking about things in negative terms is generally somewhat taboo in Christian circles (at least in theory). “We need to encourage; to focus on the positives,” we say.

Many of us probably realize, though, that mistakes can be far better teachers than getting it right. I am on a steep learning curve right now, and almost everything I’m learning is by mistakes. Can talking about mistakes, about negatives, about what not to do be an effective way to teach others, then? I think that, at least at times, it can be an effective means of communication. I applied this line of thought recently in my post entitled ‘What discipleship is not‘. But how often and/or to what extent should we use this technique (if at all)?

I got to thinking more about this because of a post on Copyblogger this past week talking about the power of negative examples as teachers. Here is an interesting excerpt:

Wendy Joung performed behavioral training research on firefighters in 2006, and the results are published in Applied Psychology. She and her colleagues found that firefighters trained with case studies that focused on others who had made poor decisions and suffered adverse consequences ultimately showed better judgment and better adaptive thinking than a control group provided with case studies that focused on positive results.

Bottom line – mistakes teach better than successes. You might already know this from your own life.

How much does this apply to my leadership of a church planting team? Can we be better church planters by talking and thinking about what not to do?

I would love to hear some feedback from my readers on this one, including from GFMers. Any thoughts?