Shift 5 – From More Programs to More Mission Fields
Exponential 2019 is less than two months away. We’re looking forward to seeing you and sharing this year’s theme: “Made for More: Mobilizing God’s People, God’s Way.” This is the first time an Exponential theme has focused on a book of the Bible—each of the six chapters in Ephesians for each critical paradigm shift. As we 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 disciple-making multiplication movement today.
In this ongoing series, we’re focusing on each of these six shifts. Our last four posts highlighted shifts 1, 2, 3 and 4. This week, Exponential friend, pastor and author Rob Wegner looks at Ephesians chapter 5 to help us unpack shift 5: From More Programs to More Mission Fields.
In this next-to-last chapter of the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, his direction—and this fifth shift—are all about the where (the “go”). Paul tells the church that they are “children of light” and because of that they have specific marching orders.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:8, 14-17).
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.
Have you ever thought about and embraced the truth that every disciple is a missionary with a unique mission field—their mosaic of mission? All those overlapping mosaics of mission are Jesus’ plan to express His fullness into every corner of culture and into every sphere of society.
Each mosaic significantly extends the “footprint of fullness.” Our “go” is to embrace our mission field and to “make the most of every opportunity” to express the fullness of Jesus to others. To, as Paul writes, “make the most of every opportunity, understanding what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:16).
As leaders, we’re called to make heroes of people who are living out their personal calling—and tell their stories publicly. And we awaken people to their identity as an everyday missionary. This role brings up an important question.
Is your church organized to activate people in their unique mission fields?
That’s part of mobilizing God’s people God’s way and activating all people on purpose because the Church is made to “go” more.
Let’s look at what it means to shift from more programs to more mission fields. The best way to see the difference between the two is to think about it in terms of how your church operates.
“More programs” means:
• We best reach the world with great centralized programs started and maintained by the organized church.
• We will have the greatest impact by making sure the pastors and professionals decide what is best when it comes to impacting the community.
• We must streamline programs to maintain focus which will yield excellence and impact.
“More mission fields” means:
• We best reach the world by equipping great missionaries who start and maintain communities on mission, addressing needs and making disciples in new contexts.
• We will have the greatest impact by allowing the Holy Spirit to lead people to what is best for the community in which He has sent them. This is encouraged and supported with coaching from their church leaders.
• We must streamline centralized programs to maintain focus, which will yield excellence and impact. This creates a discipleship pathway that equips and releases people to live as missionaries in their context where new ministry that we don’t control will emerge.
Key Paradigm Thoughts (from Tampa Underground)
In Shift 4, I shared about Tampa Underground—a fellowship of 150+ micro-churches based in Tampa Bay, Florida. The Underground mobilizes, resources and empowers these micro-churches, as individuals start and lead these fresh expressions of faith reaching into every corner of society. They understand that every disciple is a missionary with a unique mission field.
Melyssa Cordero, The Underground’s minority leadership director, reminds us that the Kingdom is bigger than the church.
“Being part of a community on campus that was trying to bring the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven was a risk, an adventure, a time of dreaming,” Melyssa says. “Going to that from a space where you were only challenged to think about the Kingdom of God on Sunday morning. The idea that the Kingdom of God was just being the church itself—the buildings, the programs—just felt…it was a disappointment. It left me feeling empty.”
Kiesha Polonio, associate director at Tampa Underground, offers a second important insight: The ministry and mission God has gifted many of His people for will not fit the programs of the church.
“I wanted to get involved. I wanted to do something!” Kiesha says. “The only options were kids’ ministry, women’s ministry or singing on the worship team. There has to be more. God is doing more in me, and it doesn’t fit in the parameters of these options.”
Melyssa and Keisha give voice to tens of thousands of Christians today who know they were made to be, do and go more—to make the most of every opportunity in order to express the fullness of Jesus to others.
The Life Story of Your Church
My friend Bill Easum helps us get our arms around what this shift looks like in our church. In his book, Unfreezing Moves: Following Jesus Into the Mission Field, Bill writes: “Our paradigm is our repeated life story that determines how an organization feels, thinks and thus acts ….”
What’s the life story of your church? What is the combination of beliefs, metaphors, origin story, hero stories, victories, tragedies, operating systems, values and daily practices that make up the story within which your church lives? That’s your paradigm.
So when we talk about Shift 5 in practical terms and how it plays out in your leadership and church body, we can look at specific characteristics of what it looks like to activate people on purpose, encouraging them to identify and embrace their mission fields. Honestly ask yourself:
• Are we aggressively attempting to activate all our people into every corner of culture and every sphere of society? Or are we aggressively attempting to activate all the people into the programs of the church?
• Are we sounding the wakeup call to pursue a missionary identity where we live, work, study and play? Or are we sounding the wakeup call for missional opportunities like short-term mission trips and service in the inner city.
• Are we making heroes of people living out their personal calling and telling their stories publicly? Or are we making heroes of our volunteers and telling their stories publicly?
• Do we recognize that we can’t save people from the discomfort and sacrifice of a missionary lifestyle? If so, do we equip them to count the cost, live in community and care for their souls? Or are we trying to make it as easy as possible for people to take a step toward ministry and mission?
The differences are subtle but profound in impact.
What Shift 5 Looks Like in Your Church
“For us, a big part of what we do as leaders is to simply say, ‘yes.’ We have discovered that people have ideas,” Sanders says. “Most of us have something that God has embedded into our hearts or heads that we would like to see change, but we have simply not been encouraged or equipped to pursue it.
“Christian empowerment means helping people hear the voice of God as He speaks to them. Our leaders at the Underground are less about laying out some visionary master plan that moves people to action. If I move people by eloquence or my vision of the future, they become dependent on me as the engineer and keeper of that vision. If, on the other hand, the vision for their life and the Kingdom coming through it originates from an encounter with God, they are dependent on Him for the renewal and vitality of that vision.”
Assessing Your Reality
Use the questions below to determine where you and your church are in this shift and new paradigm for mobilizing everyday missionaries.
Is your church:
- Organizing around the one or two of the functions describe in Ephesians 4 listed here. Typically, one or two rises to the top because they are the couple that our pastor, leadership team or denomination are most passionate and comfortable with.
- Our primary dashboard is built around the ABC’s (attendance, baptisms, and cash) of the Church.
- We only equip disciples for the one or two functions about which our pastor, team or denomination are most passionate or comfortable.
Or are you:
- organizing around all five roles of APEST for the purpose of releasing the fullness of Jesus.
building your dashboard around metrics for each of the organizing systems (APEST) in Ephesians 4.
- equipping every disciple to discovery their primary influencing style from Ephesians 4 and encourage them to appreciate all the others as necessary.
Exponential has created a Made for More FREE resource kit to help your team take a deeper dive into these six shifts and equip you to apply them in your local context. Next time, we’ll unpack our sixth and final shift: From More Strategy…to More Surrender.