A few months ago I wrote about a new course I was teaching in Malaysia, entitled, “Ministry in a time of COVID.” In that course we looked at a number of Biblical leaders to gain insights into their ministry and leadership choices during crises. One leader we looked in the course at was the apostle Paul, in a series of Bible studies I entitled “Plan B Ministry.” Plan-B Ministry is, as it sounds, the ministry choices and opportunities that emerge when Plan A, for whatever reason, is made impossible. Much of Paul’s story in Acts can be described as “Plan-B Ministry.” One short passage caught my eye:
ACTS 16:6-15: They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8 so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.
What are some of the elements of Plan-B Ministry in this passage?
Moldova is one of the smaller former republics of the USSR, territory that during the Ottoman Empire was for a while part of Romania. The citizens of Moldova speak Romanian and also Russian. While here, we both have had on-going teaching (Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, China, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus). I have taught in Bălţi (pronounced “Bults”), Comrat, Tiraspol (in the breakaway region between Ukraine and the Dniester River –hence called Transnistria), and on Saturday I will be in the town of Ungheni. These cities, and the place we’ve spent most of our time, Chisinau (the capital) are highlighted in red points on the map at the top.
Lisa has found many ways to serve the team at the St. Paul’s Theological College in Malaysia. She attends the weekly staff meetings and recently offered a mini-workshop for them as they think through transitions to online learning, considering the pros and cons of hybrid, asynchronous, synchronous, and blended in-person/zooming options. She has seen it all, in her years at Fuller, and it seems they found this quite helpful.
Lisa and I have also really enjoyed co-teaching the gospel of Mark to students in Malaysia. She brings a scholarly perspective on a theological or historical theme in the gospel in the first hour, then I take students into an inductive, close look at a passage. It's a great blend of our strengths!
I am also proud to announce that a book Lisa has been working on in the cracks of our nomadic lives has a publisher, Wipf and Stock, and is nearing completion! The tentative title is Resonate: Preaching that Reconnects Us after a Season of Distance. We hope it will be a gift of encouragement to pastors who have toughed it out through this long stretch of the road.
With Love and gratitude,
Rich and Lisa
Rich and Lisa Lamb