February is usually a quiet month here at PMU, in between the rush of end-of-year activities and the busy season of preparing for the budget, the annual meeting, and whatever travels are on the horizon. And this year, we’ve also begun thinking about a need that is vital, but not very exciting to most people: continuity. Bear with me for a few minutes as I discuss this subject a little, even though it is something of a departure from what I usually write about. There’s a point coming eventually….
Continuity planning is a pretty big deal in the business world. If the lights go out, the equipment fails, a disaster strikes, the markets crash, or hostilities break out, businesses like to be able to keep going, or at least, make an exit without losing their shirts. In the private realm, homeowners keep the plumber’s phone number on the fridge, or keep a file of important numbers and papers tucked away in a fireproof safe or in a safety deposit box, make sure their insurance is paid up, and so on.
For some reason, though, continuity planning doesn’t get a lot of attention in churches and other ministries as a general rule. Sure, we do the basic things like insurance, and we know where the mortgage papers are so that we can have a mortgage burning party when the building is paid off. But really having a plan for how to keep going when everything around us isn’t takes a level of effort that many ministries just do not believe they have time for. And besides, we’re trusting in the Lord to take care of us. He does, of course, but He also recommends that we plan for things before we launch off into our endeavors.
So in the relative quiet of the early months of the year, Karen has been working hard at not only the daily routine, but also at developing office manuals for every procedure undertaken here. It’s a monumental task, but we are hoping that if something should happen to us, or when the time comes that we turn the office over to someone else, the transition will be easy and the learning curve short for the next PMU office team. It’s just one component of a comprehensive continuity plan that should outline a course of action for just about any emergency or challenge to ongoing operations that we can imagine. A few years back, we prepared a manual for our missionaries in the field regarding dealing with emergencies “over there” and required of them a basic emergency plan for the most common things that one might expect to happen. Now we are undertaking the effort ourselves for the whole organization.
But even if you keep your plan as simple as possible, it’s still a big deal. Let your mind ponder on these questions a bit: what will we do if the power is out for days for some reason? How will we communicate? We are all so used to computers and cell phones now that we could be powerless to do anything for awhile as we try to remember what life was like before the internet. What if the phones aren’t working? What if we should have a fire and lose all our files? Who will we contact, and how, to rebuild? Where will our list of contact information be kept so that we have access to it? What are the priorities to fix first? World economies are uncertain; if normal channels for getting funds to missionaries are compromised, how will our people be supported? And the list goes on and on. Some of these we already have in place, but preparing a comprehensive continuity plan is a big job, one that will likely take a few years to complete, but the goal is to make sure that no matter what happens our missionary endeavors will keep going as smoothly as possible.
So now to the point I mentioned was coming — when you think about it, there are some similarities between preparing a continuity plan and the missionary enterprise in which all of our people are engaged. You see, a continuity plan assumes that you had a working plan to begin with. The whole goal of such a plan in the world at large is to get things back to normal as soon as possible. For the missionary, and indeed, every believer, the trick here is go back far enough so that you really know what “normal” means. False gospels hold out the hope that people can return to happiness, to order, to peace, to fulfillment if folks just do certain things of a religious or service-oriented nature. The fondly held idea that children are born innocent, as an example, illustrates that people think that if they could just return to such innocence all would be well in the world. That thought has been the plot line of so many movies, books, and seminars that it is cliché.
But this viewpoint does not go back far enough to define “normal” accurately. Most readers of these musings have been to a funeral or two at one time or another. A common statement, usually made in an effort to inject some comfort into a person’s grief, is that “death is a normal part of life.” No, it isn’t. That statement is patently false. It does not go back far enough. Normal life as God intended it had no death; it was only the abnormality of sin and rebellion that twisted normalcy so much that people now think of death as normal.
And so the “gospel” of reclamation and turning over a new leaf is a lousy continuity plan. It is roughly the equivalent of a business deciding that their goal after a fire is to return to the good old days before the fire when they were bankrupt. It doesn’t make much sense, and yet a gospel that dangles the promise of health and wealth and self-fulfillment is very attractive to a world that does not really want to return to normal as defined by the Creator.
PMU’s missionaries, thankfully, do not have to prepare a continuity plan for fallen mankind. Our Lord has already done that, from before the foundations of the earth. And God’s plan really does return the souls of His children to true “normal” by making all things new, securing us for eternity in the genuine innocence of Eden. The process of sanctification is the working out of the ramifications of that gospel continuity plan through time until He brings us to glorious perfection again when we see Him. Our missionaries’ duties include declaring the plan that God has prepared, and calling humanity to turn from their own worthless plans and submit to God’s. In essence, we are calling people to get back to normal by God’s plan.
Pray for us, please. As big as the temporal task of preparing a continuity plan is, it’s nothing compared to the magnitude of the task of delivering God’s perfect plan to a rebellious world. You realize, of course, that you are on our “list” of who we call upon to help us in the effort. Blessings to you!
Dr. Len Pine