The COVID-19 crisis has now persisted since the start of the year and looks to be going through various permutations rather than abruptly ending. Meanwhile, there are promising signs of vaccines on the horizon, but not coming to the rescue soon. People and companies are adjusting and innovating as best they can. But not all can and will survive. Long-standing institutions have already perished in the COVID-19 wasteland. Some will be able to bounce back; others not. The COVID-19 situation has caused us to think, to actually re-think, various aspects of our present situation to sort out how to survive. Here are six areas to rethink.
This is Part I of a two-part series (Part II) discussing six ways to "re-think" our present circumstance. The six themes reflect the focus of the upcoming ELO Forums Online in Winnipeg (Nov 9th), Vancouver (Nov 16th) and Toronto (Nov 23rd).
RETHINK: MEANING & FAITH
First, we need to rethink the nature of faith. Where is God in the midst of a Coronavirus pandemic? This is also the title of a book by John Lennox, Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford and Instructor in ELO’s Entrepreneurial Leaders Programme offered in collaboration with Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford. ELO hosted a webinar with John Lennox on April 23rd.
John discussed how to rethink pain and suffering. He pointed out that, “C.S. Lewis said pain is God's megaphone shouting at us to ‘wake up’ and it seems to me that it's having that effect. It's leaving people, particularly in their isolation, to really think about their mortality.”
John highlighted for businesspeople, “I want to say to you that God has an interest in the business you are running. He is interested in your work because He gave it to you to be part of your experience of Him and His Kingdom. I believe that in a crisis situation it is totally legitimate and right to get involved in thinking deeply about what the Bible teaches you in terms of morality and love of other people.” John made the critical point that this present situation should not be viewed as a problem to be overcome it is a problem to be lived through.
One example of a businessperson dealing with the COVID-19 situation is Jeff Williams, Founder & CEO, Absolute Results. We had an ELO Webinar with him on June 11th. Jeff explained that “Every once in a while a unique window of opportunity opens up, we talk about our 'why' all the time, but now we get to live it…and be honest and stop lying to ourselves…is the way I am engaging with my staff consistent with my why, and my clients, and the industry…in the last 10 weeks, I have intentionally reached out to my global team with regular video updates…I use to do it once per month, now I do it twice per week…”
The present crisis prompted Jeff to rethink core issues: “To re-evaluate, why I am in business, what changes are happening in my industry, and where can I make an impact? There are huge changes ahead in the industry, and we get to ask ourselves, how do we find success in the new business of today, while creating tomorrow and not getting stuck in yesterday…so we can lead our clients.”
RETHINK: THE ECONOMY
Second, we need to rethink the economy. Where are we right now? There are many circumstances to consider. We need to track the strength of the overall US economy, which remains the big driver for the world economy. What about interest rates? Low-interest rates are one of the biggest factors driving stock valuations higher. Another important factor is monetary and fiscal stimulus. One indicator to watch as a sort of inflation barometer is the US dollar. Another factor is the perceived disconnect between the highs of parts of the stock market with the layoffs and closed businesses of the “real” world.
My colleagues at Nicola Wealth provide regular updates on the markets. As explained by Robert Edel, CIO, Nicola Wealth, on the website, “After an exceptionally strong July, markets continued to melt higher last month [July] in what Goldman Sachs described as one of the strongest August rallies in 35 years. By mid-month, in fact, the S&P 500 topped its February 19th all-time high for the first time since the start of the pandemic and ended the month up 7.2% and +9.7% year to date.” From its low on March 23rd until the end of August, the S&P 500 has rallied 57.7%! The tech-heavy NASDAQ, which recouped its COVID-19 losses in early June, has been in record-setting territory for a couple of months now. It did even better at +9.7% in August and +32.1% so far in 2020.”
Rob further explained that “From its March 23rd low, the NASDAQ is up a remarkable 72.3%. Results for Canadian stocks are not quite as spectacular, but impressive none the less. The S&P/TSX gained 2.4% last month and is still down 1.1% for the year, but has gained 49.3% from the March 23rd low. The rebound in global equities has far outpaced past bear market recoveries in both speed and magnitude. What’s even more impressive, however, is how markets have done this despite several dark clouds overhead, most notable being the pandemic and the economic fallout from efforts to contain it.”
The present situation is clearly volatile. Businesses need to plan carefully in light of present and medium-term market challenges. People are hoping the COVID-19 situation will soon be past us—but the end is not yet certain.
RETHINK: DIVERSITY & RACISM
Third, we need to rethink the idea of diversity and differing perspectives. This issue has been significantly highlighted this year. How can Christians and their churches lead authentically concerning racism? Professor N.T. (Tom) Wright in his ELO Webinar on June 24th explained that “The church should have been leading on this issue all along and the church should have been there in the middle of a muddled society as an example of how to get it right, to send a signal that we can form one family. What we then should see is Christians receiving this as a wake-up call that we Christians should have been doing this all along.“
Tom further noted that we need the wisdom of [professor and author] Miroslav Volf who articulated his position in a remarkable book 25 years ago, Exclusion & Embrace. Tom explained that “On the one hand, you have the proper Christian imperative to have an amnesty, jubilee, forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. On the other hand, you can’t do that by papering over the cracks, saying ‘oh well it’s alright, we’ve realized it was wrong and we’ve said sorry. Now let’s forget it all’. Hence for Volf, exclusion and embrace need to go together. The exclusion is the way of saying that was wrong and we must sort it out and make proper apologies in the proper way” but in a way that aims at embrace.”