Mobilization as Discipleship
I met with the planning team during the 2010 Global Mission Consultation in Tokyo and shared my belief that if we gather, plan, strategize, assemble great resources, and conduct accurate research, but fail to mobilize local churches worldwide, we will fail to do the Great Commission. We recognized then that mobilizing the whole Church to reach the whole world was our greatest opportunity. Ten years later, this remains our goal.
At the Tokyo 2010 event, the global missions community committed to the Tokyo Declaration: “making disciples of every people in our generation.” This article addresses the relationship between mobilization and discipleship. It is my belief that a church discipled is a church mobilized, a church mobilized is believers discipled. It will take the whole Church mobilized to reach the whole world.
Four Processes of Mobilization—Knowing, Being, Having and Doing
Discipleship is a lifelong process of living life with and in Christ. It occurs individually and collectively as Christ guides us through four processes – from knowing to being to having to doing.
Marvin Newell writes, “In the early church, the Apostle Paul stood out as one of the foremost disciple makers. The book of Acts records how he did it and what a major focus it was in his ministry as he evangelized new areas. However, his passion for making mature disciples is probably best seen in a prayer… for a group of believers…in Colosse.”1 In this prayer Paul provides an outline for what Newell calls “transformational discipleship” and provides understanding of these four processes in discipleship.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. – Colossians 1:9-12, NIV
The prayer begins with a request that we might gain knowledge and makes it clear that this knowledge of God is the insight that His Spirit imparts. This knowledge makes known the purpose, or what is pleasing, to God. Second, the prayer requests that this knowledge might inform how we live our lives. God intends that life in Christ would re-shape our identities, resulting in a way of being that is pleasing to Him. Third, the prayer requests that our lives would have fruit. This reference applies both to the internal fruit of His indwelling Spirit (Gal. 5:22) as well as metaphorically to the good works as believers abide in Him (Matt, 13:23, Mark 4:20, Luke 8:15, John 15:5, Rom. 7:4).
Lastly, the prayer ends with a request that we would understand how we have been made able to do His every good purpose as we participate in God’s mission. When we realize how He has shaped us individually with gifts, treasure and talents, we can learn to steward our life in His mission. As we are enabled, we are strengthened with God's glorious power as well as His authority which he promises accompanies us as we participate in His mission until the end of the age (Matt. 28:18-20). This extends to the inheritance or allotment he bestows, if only in part, upon the “saints in the kingdom of his light”.
These same four processes – knowing, being, having, and doing – happen in mobilization. They are simply the fundamentals of a growing and developing faith as we move with Christ in His mission. The sequence matures a believer.
Three Dimensions of Mobilization – Discovery, Development and Deployment
Holistic mobilization represents a series of interconnected activities and events. Working with God and His Spirit, mobilizers help draw people towards God purposes and then equip them to be engaged in His mission. Mobilizers provide guided discovery which leads both individuals and ministries to encounter God as creator and redeemer and to understand how believers are meant to live in light of His eternal purpose.
However, knowledge and inspiration about redemption and God's invitation to participate in His mission are not enough. Every believer must be equipped to serve in God’s mission in some way. Development occurs as we impart “knowledge by teaching, skill by guided experience, and character by modeling and mentoring.”2
Deployment of people in God’s mission involves moving them and necessary resources into a strategic position to be most effectively utilized. When we fail to train before giving opportunities for mission deployment, we fail to truly mobilize. The church plays a critical part in engagement through activities such as prayer, sending, receiving, going, etc., that both equip and deploy those they serve into Great Commission work locally and globally.
Bringing the Dimensions and Processes Together
When mobilization efforts focus on intentionally leading churches and individuals in them from discovery through development to deployment, the four processes are at work within each of these dimensions. The dimensions help us see how the processes are practically contextualized. They help us intentionally lead believers from awareness to engagement in the mission of Christ.
- Discovery as Discipleship: Knowing is personally, experientially and intimately coming to know God as Creator and Redeemer. Being is discovering our personal identity as created in His image and as a new creation. Having is understanding what God gives to believers collectively and individually – gifts, treasure and talents – and understanding our call to be stewards and not just consumers. Doing is individually and collectively joining Him in His mission.
- Development as Discipleship: Knowing is a deepening faith as well as a growing breadth and depth of knowledge of God and from God, concerning life and mission. Being is understanding more deeply the realities of our new life in Christ including a personal and spiritual formation into mature disciples of Jesus. Having is increasing our capacity to steward our individual gifts, treasures and talents to serve His purpose collectively. Doing involves developing practical skills necessary to carry out His mission.
- Deployment as Discipleship: Knowing God and receiving knowledge from Him becomes a joint understanding with other believers. As this is practically applied, it develops into wisdom. This wisdom is then shared through proclamation and demonstration globally. Being culminates in realizing a new collective identity – the Church. We recognize that as individual members of Christ’s body we are joined together with other believers into one new body with one eternal head, who is Christ Jesus.
Having includes both the power of His glorious might as well as the authority he invests in His Church. It is what we are given individually to steward as we share corporately with His Church. It is the inheritance shared among His Church to accomplish His purpose as it unfolds throughout time. Doing is living lives that bear the fruit of His Kingdom. We begin as recipients and benefactors of Christ’s redemptive mission. We learn to share the blessing of Christ’s redemptive work in the same way we received it. We identify how we can participate in that mission individually. We increase our capacity, gain valuable skills and actively participate in Christ’s mission locally as well as globally as a function of Christ’s body on the earth.
Accomplishing the Great Commission requires a mobilized global church taking the Gospel to the whole world. Mobilization must include calling the whole Church, discipling every believer to be a Gospel witness, and then orchestrating and effectively engaging His people in His redemptive purpose. This requires a holistic approach to mobilization which must include logistic, strategic and effective recruiting, developing and deploying all resources in a manner which produces maximum effort. Mobilization is also a part of discipleship itself. It is multidimensional and each dimension has key processes. When we take time to understand these dimensions and processes, we better position ourselves, individually and collectively, to participate more fully in God’s mission.