The future of the church is directly related to the people of the church living life on mission.
While this is always true, it is even more important in a growingly post-Christian world. The days of a simple “attractional” model of church are quickly declining. What is needed is for every church to multiply disciples who become leaders who are sent on mission. Few people I know carry this heart to see the church multiply missional leaders more than Gail Ficken, the Founder and President of Multipli. In this article, Gail identifies three keys to overcome roadblocks to mission in your church. But what I most love about Gail is that these are things she practices every day and now has designed a whole ministry to share those practices with others. I encourage you to read the article and catch her missional and evangelistic heart.
—Dave Rhodes, Director of Church NEXT
There is a lot of talk these days about the people of God sharing the gospel of God. Unfortunately, real action is only showing up in scattered pockets.
It’s what every leader wants, right? The people of God released, mobilized, sent (pick your word) into the mission of God everywhere and every day! But that’s not happening very much, is it? Probably not in your ministry. Definitely not in most ministries!
According to Barna’s research¹:
92% of pastors say that training the people of God for new evangelistic outcomes is critical.
Only 9% of the same pastors signal they have designs to accomplish that training.
Why The Gap?
After watching hundreds of ordinary people find their evangelistic voice in the congregational ministries I lead, I’ve dedicated most of the last decade of my life to training and developing leaders who become adequately equipped for the ministries they lead.
Most recently, I’m living into my own calling in founding Multipli (multipli.org) to address the three fundamental roadblocks that are holding the people of God back from being released into the mission of God.
You see, the roadblocks you’re likely facing are not acceptable and it doesn’t need to be this way. Here are a few things I’ve noticed along the way:
- There’s an evangelistic heartbeat begging to be awakened among the people of God.
- Awakening this heartbeat is critical if the western church is going to missionally engage our world.
- At best, for many years, all we’ve known to do with those in which this evangelistic heartbeat is awakened is to recruit and release them. So, we recruit volunteers… mostly to places in our church. We call them leaders. And then convince ourselves that we have released them into their mission field.
- Then we become very disappointed because they don’t act like leaders – they act like volunteers stuck inside our walls… even though we named them leaders!
- Part of what is missing is that we have never discipled them to be well-equipped leaders who can engage unbelieving people and invite them into new communities.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
It doesn’t have to be this way!
There are three fundamental keys that can unlock a different story and a different missional future for your people and your ministry.
Like most people, my learnings were shaped through both blessing and heartbreak. Some years back, I began practicing and living out in our own suburban neighborhood much of what we now disciple people into in our ministry. After living in this season, one of our neighbors was thrown into a crisis of epic proportion. It led to an amazing, but painful journey.
During a poignant moment with extended family gathered, I was given the invitation to share my Jesus with them. As I was walking home and deep in my being, I sensed the Spirit say to me: “Gail, I want you to multiply this!”
That word lay seemingly dormant in my heart for some time. But I never forgot it.
Our own experience of grace through the gospel of Jesus invites our response to join the mission of God and turn what I’ve called the three keys to releasing the people of God. To fail to do so will leave:
- Your people paralyzed
- Your ministry missionally stuck
Here are the 3 Keys:
Pay attention to these keys and you’ll begin releasing fearless impact makers, too!
- Responsibility! To own the problem, own the mission.
- Permission! To participate and be leaders of the mission.
- Accessibility! To be discipled and trained… while sent.
Whose Responsibility Is It?
The people of God are responsible to own and live out the mission of God. This is not optional for any believer!
It’s a high calling gifted to each one of us by Jesus himself!
Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
By virtue of being a child of God, it is everyone’s responsibility to live out the mission of God every day. However, too often you as a pastor have probably experienced ambivalence from people when it comes to living on mission. Perhaps, you received the “shrug of the shoulders” as people in your ministry dismiss that the mission has been entrusted to them and instead assign it to the paid professionals. This is a uniquely western church conundrum.
Even more, unfortunately here in America, the church can actually get in the way of itself. Most of the 300,000 churches in the United States have had leaders who have purposely or inadvertently trained people (sometimes for decades) that this work is only to be trusted to the paid professional. So, in a sense, the system actually keeps people from embracing the task as their own calling.
Who Gives Permission?
This has been a surprise to our team at Multipli!
Most people start out in Multipli’s 9-month training with a twinge of fear and uncertainty complemented with a resolve that there’s something more to following Jesus and being used in his Kingdom than what they’ve known and experienced in the past.
- They’re pioneering types. Willing to risk.
- They’re tired of not knowing what to do or how to do it.
But there’s a point in the process where even these pioneers often get stuck. It comes as they cross a predictable threshold where each one begins to wonder if he or she actually has permission to lead out in ministry. They know they have permission to help the church do its thing, but do they really have permission to be the church, and will the church come alongside them as they do?
They start asking questions like, “Do I really have permission to do this? Do I have permission to give voice to the gospel in relatable ways? Do I have permission to invite people into new communities where people can meet Jesus? Who has authorized me to do it?”
What they want is for their pastor to tell them that they do have permission – to give them the “nod,” to tell them they can do it and to assure them that this work of mission is entrusted to them.
It is at this point that they look for a recognized leader to champion or endorse their missional fervor. What they want is for their pastor to tell them that they do have permission – to give them the “nod,” to tell them they can do it and to assure them that this work of mission is entrusted to them. Unfortunately, for many of them, the nod never comes. And for some of them, instead of being encouraged, they start being perceived as a threat.
Without the clear sense of “permission granted” and “authorization received,” we as the church will never clear this roadblock and will find ourselves repeating lots of words with little action as a result. But notice how Jesus clears this roadblock:
In Luke 8, Jesus modeled the proclamation of good news of the Kingdom of God, curing evil spirits and diseases.
In Luke 9, Jesus commissioned/authorized/gave permission to the 12 to drive out demons, cure diseases, preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
In Luke 10, Jesus appointed (and gave permission!) to the 72 to go two-by-two where the “harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Be certain to give permission. As Jesus did, go and do likewise!
Who Provides Accessibility to Being Discipled and Trained?
If people don’t get stuck in the first two potential roadblocks, then most of the time they get stuck here! Few have been discipled in a Luke 8, 9, and 10 kind of way!
If it were a matter of merely teaching, we’d have no problems. But, teaching alone delivers knowledge, not transformation. Teaching delivered in relationship results in transformation! On the job training (training while being sent) gets them over the hump.
Step into any room of leaders and ask them who is discipling or apprenticing others around them for the mission of God and the room goes silent!
- We have plenty of vision casting.
- We have plenty of preaching.
- We have plenty of strategic planning.
- What we’re missing is people having access to the imperfect lives of others who can disciple them and guide them forward to be sent to reach the many!
Here is where we at Multipli can help you as a leader:
At Multipli, participants quickly embrace several simple repeatable rhythms:
- A weekly, memorable asynchronous teaching they can engage at any time.
- A weekly “put into practice” that stretches them and builds competence and resilience – in small incremental steps – where failure is never fatal.
- A weekly discipleship experience with others on Zoom led by an experienced guide/coach that delivers large amounts of accountability, encouragement, and the discipline to listen and act upon the prompting of the Spirit. Participants get access into the imperfect life of one that can disciple them and guide them!
Woven through it all are the three keys that release people as fearless impact makers!
- The mission is everyone’s responsibility, not a select few.
- Permission is authorized and granted.
- Access to the imperfect life of a discipler/guide almost always results in a transformed life!
For example, a young woman in Wisconsin started this journey with much of the same angst that many people in your church silently hold. “I think God wants me to do something, but I don’t know what and I don’t know how. So, I don’t do anything!”
9 months later?
- She KNOWS it’s everyone’s responsibility.
- She has been vested with permission.
- She’s walked with a discipler/guide.
- AND, she emerged transformed as a leader with confidence, a plan, and action underway with her husband to be gospel lights in their setting!
This is just one of the hundreds of stories I could tell you.
When you begin to help people own the responsibility, give permission for them to lead and train them as they launch out on mission, the people of God doing the mission of God start to see incredible results.
With these three keys, we see reluctant followers become bold, confident disciples sent into God’s mission! And you can, too. When you begin to help people own the responsibility, give permission for them to lead and train them as they launch out on mission, the people of God doing the mission of God start to see incredible results:
- Build trust with skeptics
- Engage spiritual conversations
- Identify their own fields of mission
- Start communities of all types with believers and unbelievers together
- Multiply them
- Develop resilience
You’ll release the people of God for the mission of God with these three keys firmly in place. If you bypass one or more of them, you will be in the cloud of witnesses offering many words, but seeing little action or resulting fruit.
We see ministry leaders partner with Multipli to overcome these roadblocks and provide the early wins that dispel fear and become the models of “this is worth the sacrifice” to engage our world differently than we’ve known in the past. So, if you think Multipli’s training might be useful to you and/or people in your ministry, go to multipli.org! We would be honored to serve and partner with you.
The online training my team and I have built at Multipli provides the tools, training, and confidence through an experienced guide for people to scale each of the three roadblocks and be sent into their own mission field.
- Barna Group, Better Together, https://shop.barna.com/products/better-together?_pos=1&_sid=2eec6979a&_ss=r.