As I read Sam’s post, it seems he is uncomfortable with people calling college ministry “strategic” because of who and where they are (in his case, Oxford). He believes this verges on privileging or favoring the rich/powerful/strong.
Thus, a few hastily configured points that originated as tweets to Allberry.
1) First, we can affirm that favoritism is clearly & unequivocally forbidden there in James. (Sam’s post is excerpted from his commentary on James, James for You).
2) But strategy is not equivalent with favoritism, which the post seemed to imply. Strategy is not inherently a form of favoritism. It could be, but isn’t automatically an unbiblical playing of favorites.
3) Strategy is like theology: everyone has one, functionally. It is unavoidable that way. The question is whether it is good or not; biblical or not. Christ-like or not. Therefore, strategy is not automatically a capitulation to “business thinking” or human/earthly/demonic thinking.
4) Let’s look at the two individuals in the New Testament who provide us with the most data on how they ordered their days, months, and years. When we look at Jesus’ and Paul’s ministries, we see they displayed clear strategic thinking and priorities. They prioritized certain people and places.
Jesus shrewdly stayed away from those who would bring his messianic mission to a head before it was time. That’s why he strategically instructed those he healed to not tell anyone of what he had done.
Paul’s ambition was to go where the gospel had not yet been preached. Peter went to the Jews, so Paul went to the Gentiles. He strategically made his way to major cities and outposts throughout the Empire in Asia Minor and eventually made it to Rome. Redeemed strategy functions as a shrewd and discerning Proverbs-style wisdom.
5) Jesus was strategic but didn’t do anything without hearing from the Father.
Paul was strategic but also Spirit-led. Jesus & Paul show that strategic & Spirit-led not incompatible. Strategy needs to be interruptible.
6) Strategy is in part the consequence of being a finite being. It’s about having limitations and therefore making trade -offs. So we could say that Jesus being strategic is a necessary consequence of the incarnation, therefore so should we. “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” says Jesus in John 20:21.
7) We can be strategic and avoid favoritism in practice. In my churches we’ve had college students and homeless folks side-by-side. If I ignored homeless to reach students that’s wrong. But if I plant or pastor in an area to reach students, but pastor all those entrusted to me, that’s strategic, not playing favorites.
So by all means, let’s be on guard against favoritism, and only going to the privileged, powerful, and wealthy. But let’s not be less strategic. Taking strategy off the table *could* lead to passivity, lack of intentionality, and complacency in mission—and that would not be very Christ-like.