To paraphrase Sun Tzu, we can win every battle if we know our enemy and know ourselves. But what happens when we don’t know our enemy well? COVID-19 is a case in point. The “facts” are slippery and constantly changing. We don’t really “know” what we think we know!
One thing we do know is that we are in a battle against a killer, and it’s real. One way or another, COVID-19 is killing people, jobs and economies. Another thing we know is that BAM is especially well-positioned to help now in the midst of the battle, and help later in the aftermath. How should BAMers respond right now?
On the basis of what we know. BAM can help defeat COVID if we have the right focus, posture and practices.
In part one of this two part post, I’ll first talk about our necessary focus. We need to look up to God and look back at history first, and then look around and ahead. In part two I’ll talk about posture and practices and share a few real stories about how Christian entrepreneurs are responding.
Look Up (to God)
COVID-19 is not a surprise to God. He means to use COVID-19 for the common good, the specific good of His children, and His glory. (See Gen. 50:20 and Rom. 8:28.) And Job, with authority, assures us that God “can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (42:2). (See more thoughts on this here)
Rejoice in this, rest in it, and take action because of it!
Look Back (at History)
There have always been plagues and pandemics. It’s instructive to remember how Christians in the early church responded in situations even worse than ours. In The Triumph of Christianity, Rodney Stark reminds us that during the two great plagues of AD 165 and 251, the “truly revolutionary principle” that drove members of the early church to respond sacrificially, even to the point of death, was “Christian love and charity”. The early church grasped agape — sacrificial love — and lived it out. While a third of the Roman Empire was perishing, and physicians were fleeing the cities and priests were abandoning their temples, true “Christians claimed to have answers and, most of all, they took appropriate actions.”
Look Around (for Needs)
Christians — all of us — must look around at immediate needs and take appropriate actions to win the battle against COVID. These actions are usually very simple and related both to how we conduct ourselves (by abiding by the generally applicable rules and guidelines pertaining to COVID, for example) as well as to how we look out for those around us (such as the priest in northern Italy who practiced agape by giving up his ventilator on behalf of a younger patient, and dying as a result).
However, BAMers have a very specific and special role to play in the battle against COVID, right now. The relief and development analogy is applicable here. Immediately after a natural disaster, we respond with relief aid. Later on, we invest in development. Right now, BAMers can respond with their “relief hats” on, by looking around for immediate needs that they can meet. That could range from taking a financial loss by not firing or laying people off, to re-tasking a workforce and/or retooling a factory to produce personal protective equipment.
Look Ahead (for Opportunities)
Once we progress to the post COVID-19 “development” phase (and in some respects, we already have), the creation of jobs and the rebuilding of local economies becomes a huge priority for BAM practitioners, both current and aspiring. The COVID crisis is accelerating history and reshaping industries in ways that either were not foreseen at all, or were just showing up on the horizon.
I am actively engaged in online education and teaching at multiple universities, and for them, very little has changed. Universities whose bread and butter are residential education, on the other hand, just cut off a decade in their move toward online education. What was on their “list of things to do” by 2030, just became a priority for 2020. Most scrambled. Some did well, some did not. And that’s just one industry. Online commerce; transportation and travel; the energy sector; entertainment… there is literally no sector that has not been impacted. No one was bullet proof.
This turmoil, however, should be seen as presenting opportunities for BAM. Many of us are, after all, entrepreneurs, right? What happens when we put our “creative and innovative hats” on? Better: what happens when those of us who are created in God’s image put the creative aspects of that image into action? Rodney Stark, in For the Glory of God, argues that it results in a flowering of science and technology and innovation. We have a chance to shape the “new normal” by identifying opportunities that others don’t, or before others do, and then bringing them to life for the post-COVID-19 common good and the glory of God.
Dr. João Mordomo is co-founder and vice-chair of Crossover Global, a global church planting organization working among unreached peoples, as well as co-chair of BAM Global and co-Catalyst for BAM at the Lausanne Movement. João serves variously as owner, managing director and board member of several BAM companies, and teaches BAM and other courses as several universities.