“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson.
This statement by Mike Tyson has a broader application than the field of boxing, or sports in general. When you get punched in the mouth or the face, your assumptions are shattered, and your line of thinking gets confused. What is even more serious is that you are still in the ring, and the fight is on. The next punch can knock you out. You have to think and re-strategize on your feet, and very quickly. That means forgetting about previous assumptions and working out a new set of assumptions with corresponding strategies and tactics.
COVID-19 is a punch in the mouth or face for ministries. Our strategic plans did not take the implications of COVID-19 into consideration. They therefore need to be revised as quickly as we can see clearly what the new near future looks like.
Sometimes “the punch in the mouth” comes to us directly from the Lord of Missions Himself. A good example comes to us from the life of Paul. He was headed to Jerusalem. Everyone, including Paul himself, thought his ministry would come to an end in Jerusalem, following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. But Paul had a “punch in the mouth.” The Lord Jesus Christ assured him of support in Jerusalem, and then told him, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome (Acts 23: 11).” The experience in Jerusalem was nothing but troubles and sufferings. Left to himself, Paul would not opt for a repeat in another city. Paul requested to be tried in Rome in obedience to the Lord’s command. He ended up in Rome, under house arrest.
When Paul got to Rome, he re-strategized. “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28: 30, 31)
From 60-62 AD Paul wrote the letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon whilst under house arrest in Rome. This was in the place of face-to-face visits and teachings. This actually worked to the advantage of Christianity because we have some of our best clarifications on Christian doctrines from this period in Paul’s life and ministry. If not for the prison letters, where would we be today with Christian doctrine?
Who knows what God will do if we re-strategize appropriately, in obedience to the Great Commission? The things that are happening today through COVID-19 can actually work out for the advancement of the Gospel and the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How to re-strategize
May I make two suggestions?
- Explore how to build movements through prayer.
This is not the same as praying for target audiences or areas, or even praying for spiritual movements. The recommendation is in reference to initiating and sustaining prayer through all the phases of movement building, which are more dependent on the Holy Spirit’s dynamic strategies and empowerment.
- Explore organizational leadership (internal) and ministry development (external) through digital strategies.
If we assumed that the current situation is the new normal, ministries must ask these questions:
- How can your ministry still work fervently toward your organizational or ministry goals utilizing digital strategies?
- How should you reorganize your organizations or ministries to radically increase effectiveness?
These are just some thoughts to begin strategic conversations. The Lord is in the lead; nothing has taken Him by surprise.
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the Gospel.” (Philippians 1: 12)
Editor’s note: Delanyo is Vice President for Area Team Leaders for Cru and is author of several books, including Leading Transformation in Africa.