Strategy implies that we know what we are doing. And I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. Most of the time, I don’t really understand what’s going on exactly. What I mean is that I find kingdom strategy a bit more like a connect-the- dots game than a management system.
I know it sounds weak and unprepared and maybe even a little bit lazy for those of us who value preparedness and strategic advances. But this is just my experience. When I’ve got my strategy together is when it most often implodes. I think it might be a control thing ... like, God wants to have it. Anyway, let me give you one example of how a strategy emerged from a seemingly random visit on an average day in a mid size city in Canada. That might be the easiest way to explain my “system” of strategically fumbling, bumbling, kingdom ministry.
The day was much like every other. But on that day’s brothel chaplaincy we visited a new brothel, just down the street from our church. The ‘madam’ of the brothel was not so friendly on our first visit. “What do you want?” she asked. I started with my normal introduction. “We are from The Salvation Army and we visit massage parlors every Wednesday afternoon in the hope that we could be of any assistance to the women here.” She immediately informed me that no one who worked at her establishment was in that kind of need. They made more money in a weekend than I probably did in a month, and I would most likely be more useful elsewhere. They didn’t need any help. Fair enough.
I asked one more question: “Well, if no one here needs our help we sure could use yours?” The response to that was silence and then, “What? You want OUR help?”
“For sure,” I said, “I need someone to help me understand how this industry works and how we can help women who are caught in it, and we sure need some help assisting the women on the streets outside of this place. Any advice or thoughts or willingness to help us?”
In that one exchange I had just made an alliance with a “madam” who was notorious in that city for her dealings in the sex industry. Let’s call her Helen. Helen became a friend. She told us to come back in a week and they would be ready. They were armed with bags and bags of clothes (from their personal closets) for those women who were on the streets. And we were promptly invited into the back room for a chat about the sex industry and how it worked in that town. And who and how we could help. That chat included a list of brothels that were most “in need” of assistance, and others who were most likely involved in illegal sex industry (trafficking). It had addresses and names and contacts and well, it was a lot of help in our work to offer the right assistance to the right women at the right time.
“When I’ve got my strategy together is when it most often implodes.”
This first connection led to many more, including city-based advocacy for changes in the solicitation laws and protection for women caught in the industry. It led to an expanding network of chaplains from many different churches, who use every opportunity to help women exit this oppression. Every woman helped is another strategic insight into the way that oppression works. For those of you who aren’t sure where to begin a strategic plan, the first two dots on my connect-the- dots for kingdom advance in combatting sexual exploitation might just be a useful place to start.
Go to where the darkness is. Go to where your heart is moved. Go talk and meet the people stuck in systems of oppression. Just go. Will you be welcomed? Probably not. But could you use their help in understanding how to help? You bet. The best help you will ever get is from those who need it. Go. It’s strategy number one every time.
- Ask for help.
Jesus is doing this all the time. Read the gospels. He’s always asking people to help him; give him water, a place to stay, a meal, a welcome, instructions on what to heal, etc. It’s a partnership thing. Jesus invites people to partner with him for kingdom come. And he doesn’t ask the religious folks. He asks the ones who need help to help him.Too often we ride in like the cavalry in the hopes that we have thought of the right answers to the deep need. But the truth is we have never understood the deep need. Go to the places of need and ask for help. That’s what we need to do much more. Instead of coming with all the answers, what if we came with the questions? What if we chose humility as a posture and allowed folks (unlikely ones at that) to help us? It would change the dynamic and outcome of our ministry.
Go and ask. In my experience, it’s not a bad place to begin a kingdom strategy.
An officer in The Salvation Army, Danielle Strickland has started churches, launched social justice departments and advocacy campaigns, written books, spoken around the world, founded training schools and discipleship systems. She remains committed to advancing God’s kingdom in todays’ world - any way she can. Learn more at (sajustice.us).