The way we motivate and mobilize volunteers often isn’t God’s way; fortunately, Paul lays a roadmap in Ephesians.
For the last five years, Exponential has been all-in on multiplication of disciples and churches. We still are. Nothing has changed. But as we’ve shaped and stewarded this conversation, we’ve learned a few things about how to get to Level 5 multiplication. And one of those lessons is so critical that it informed our 2019 theme: Made for More: Mobilizing God’s People God’s Way.
I’m talking about the mobilization of everyday missionaries. Specifically, how we’re approaching mobilization.
My guess is that if you’re honest, you’ve at one time or another taken the low road and slipped into a utilitarian approach to mobilization—seeing people as a means to an end to make our programs run. At that point, the acronym that best describes our mobilization approach is N.A.G.:
Need … to fill: “I need to fill this slot before Sunday!”
Accost … a member: “I need you to do this for Jesus!”
Guilt … used liberally: “If you don’t, I don’t know what we will do!”
If you think about it, the local church is probably the largest and most effective volunteer force on the planet. What organization mobilizes as many people on a daily basis for service?
But if we’re honest, the way we’re motivating and mobilizing these volunteers isn’t God’s way.
An Ancient Way
Have you ever sensed something was off about the way we tend to mobilize people? Maybe you have this sense that there’s a better way, but you’re not sure what that is. Perhaps you’re wondering, Do I have this mobilization ladder up against the wrong wall?
Down deep, you know the church that Jesus died and rose for is designed and made for so much more.
Maybe it’s time to look at how we’re mobilizing people and go back to Scripture to look at how God has called us, as leaders of his church, to activate the members of the body of Christ for his work. In Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus, he laid out guidelines for motivating and mobilizing the priesthood of believers—a plan that transformed the early church into a movement that turned the Roman Empire upside down and changed culture.
We can take Paul’s direction and think about it practically: Instead of, “We can build it; you can help,” we move to, “You can build it; we can help” (borrowed from Home Depot). That’s the essence of this new, but ancient, approach to mobilizing God’s people God’s way.
Think about it. The first approach is program-focused and volunteer-centric. Most ministry happens in the church’s programs, and these programs have mostly predetermined slots that need to be filled by volunteers.
The second approach (you can build it; we can help) is all-of-life-focused and calling-centric. Most ministry happens where we live, work, study and play, and that ministry includes all of your life. Everyone has a unique calling. The role of the local church is to be the “Home Depot” that empowers every disciple to discover their personal calling and then deploys them to express the fullness of Jesus through their personal calling into every corner of culture and into every sphere of society—not just inside church walls.
Together with a team of leaders, we’ve looked at mobilization to identify and unpack six paradigm shifts and specific moves based on Ephesians 1–6 that our churches can make to revolutionize how we mobilize people and multiply disciples who multiply disciples and plant churches that plant churches. We believe these six shifts have the potential to start a multiplication movement today.
6 Movement-Making Paradigm Shifts
Shift 1 – From More Effort to More Jesus (Eph. 1). Paul tells the church of Ephesus that only the fullness of Jesus can fill everything in every way (vv. 22–23). As leaders, our core commitment is to lead our church to continually illuminate this mystery that “Jesus is more.” If we believe that, then we also believe his church is made for more. Scripture shows us that Jesus has chosen and appointed his church to express his fullness into every corner of culture and sphere of society. Throughout his message to the Ephesian Christians, Paul tells us how he does and doesn’t see the church: as a body, not a building; as an identity, not an activity; and as the people of God called to fill every corner with the fullness of Jesus. This is our foundation for mobilizing people. If we believe and embrace that, then the question is: How are you equipping every disciple to grow in the lordship of Jesus and in their ability to share the gospel where they live, work, study and play?
Shift 2 – From More Volunteers to More Masterpieces (Eph. 2). Paul reminds us that the ministry of the church is all the people of God activated in their unique masterpiece mission, revealing the fullness of Jesus. As leaders, we have a responsibility to lead our church to help every disciple investigate their personal calling that mobilizes them for a one-of-a-kind mission for more. Every disciple is a unique, handcrafted-by-God vessel for expressing the fullness of Jesus.
Shift 3 – From More Guilt to More Love (Eph. 3). Paul prays that these people he loves (the church of Ephesus) would know the deep love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. As we marinate in God’s love for us and in us, that love will overflow through us. His love is the only sufficient motivation for mobilizing others—not guilt. To pour the fullness of Jesus into others, we must first be filled with the fullness of Jesus’ love. We grow in this fullness through what I call the Be-Do-Go framework: being disciples (Be) who make disciples of others (Do) wherever we are (Go). All disciples have this primary calling in common. Our personal calling distinguishes us from other disciples. It finds its significance within the context of our primary calling to be disciples who make disciples wherever we go, expressing the deep love of Christ. As leaders, we’re called to motivate people to serve by helping them understand how loved they are in Christ.
Shift 4 – From More Hierarchy to More Missionaries (Eph. 4). In this chapter, Paul describes how God has gifted the church to equip and mobilize his people for works of service for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. Jesus himself assigns the functional gifts needed to see the church reach its full maturity. Are we organizing around a lead pastor and/or lead team with a primarily “come and see” approach? Or, are we organizing around the gifts needed for the church to reach its full maturity in Christ as we send every day missionaries to the unique mission fields where they work, live, study and play? We need to help people “go and be the fullness of Jesus.” Without an organizing system that mobilizes all of God’s people, we will struggle to carry his fullness into every corner of society. I like what leadership author Max De Pree said: “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” As church leaders, we need to take this task of shaping the way people think about the church with utmost seriousness. Allowing Jesus to guide us, it’s part of the leadership task to help our local churches see the church as Jesus does.
Shift 5 – From More Programs to More Mission Fields (Eph. 5). Paul’s direction and this shift are all about the where (the Go). The people of God have already been sent and strategically placed by Jesus. And for many, those places are outside the walls of your church building. Mission begins by disciples expressing the fullness of Jesus where they live, work, study and play as missionaries with unique mission fields. Our “go” is to embrace our mission field and, as Paul writes, “Make the most of every opportunity, understanding what the Lord’s will is” (v. 16). As leaders, we make heroes of people living out their personal calling and tell their stories publicly. And we awaken people to their identity as an everyday missionary. Is your church organized to activate people in their unique mission fields? That’s part of mobilizing God’s people God’s way.
Shift 6 – From More Strategy to More Surrender (Eph. 6). Paul commands us, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” He reminds us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this dark world …” (vv. 10–11). As Scripture shows us, and as you’ve probably already discovered by now, the Enemy will do everything possible to thwart God’s plan of more for his people. But we are called to win this battle. Individually, the Enemy will attempt to hinder the fullness of Jesus in us, keeping us from carrying his fullness to others. When Paul speaks of the spiritual forces of evil, this is another way of saying systems of oppression influenced by the demonic. Often, these systems are operating inside the church. When we begin to surrender our strategies and our belief that we’re building the church while others help by filling the spots we’ve predetermined, we begin to wage the war Christ has called us to fight. At that point, people begin to understand that they are the church—and when that sense of identity becomes clear, we start to take ground from the Enemy. We can measure our success as leaders by how we motivate, equip and mobilize the people of God to respond to Jesus’ call to of make disciples who make disciples. We can only win this battle together as a body.
Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at each of these six shifts in depth as we head toward Exponential 2019, March 4–7 in Orlando. I hope you’re already planning to join us, along with 5,000 multiplication leaders. If you’re still thinking about it, I hope you’ll make a point to check out each of these posts in the coming weeks and get a glimpse of the powerful time we’ve planned.