Getting Better at Deployment: Is Each Person in Best Positinon?

    The church gives up because there is no other option in the face of rising inroads of secularism and loss of members and funding, and because of radical demands of the Gospel and powerful grace of Jesus. We learn how to give up every week and be bathed in surrender to God while continuing to tackle each task set before us. Church surrender opens the way for God to work.

    One of the tasks set before us is to consider church refreshment by the power of God. There are many coaches and consultants, books and websites available to speak to and encourage a church refreshment journey. Whichever we use, each has its soft spots, its places to get bogged down. These soft spots are predictable, in 1) Determination: Are We Ready? 2) Discernment: Who Are We Ready to Be? 3) Getting Better at Deployment: Is Each Person in Best Position? 4) Getting Better at Durability: How Can This Last? At every one of these predictable soft spots, listening can help.

    Today let us think about Deployment.


    Finally, because they've heard their own voices in story and prayer in groups of people who listened well and midwifed their sense of God's call on their lives, now the church is alive with people filled with joy and energy to do something for God. They ask the pastor or their group what they can do. The temptation is to place them in a church serving slot that has gone vacant for lack of volunteers and forget them there. Then there grow up too many eager called ones to train and place all at once. Momentum rises and cries for outlet.

    "Placing people into ministry, however, is one of the most difficult parts of the process" (Russell Burrill, Revolution in the Church, 99). Whether we call it placement or deployment or "future storytelling" (George W. Bullard, Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential), this is a soft spot on the journey, and listening can help.

    The moment a called and energetic person comes to the pastor for placement can be cherished as a fabulous teaching moment, in which to increase listening and its skills. This is where listening can help.

    Each person so stimulated by the Holy Spirit can learn to listen in three different directions. First, that which brought him or her to this awareness is learning to listen to his or her own voice, the gifts and strengths and experience that God put within. This is the first direction in which to listen intentionally and was described in my earlier article on Discernment.

    Second, every church member can be invited, and taught how, to listen to the needs in his or her church. In fact, I have found that usually in the person's excitement of calling, some needs are already in that person's view as tugging at the heart strings. Let us teach how to listen more deeply to those needs that attract our attention, how to place ourselves intentionally in their midst, how to slow the spewing or our solutions until we have fully given the gift of listening. These are acquirable skills. One caution here resides in the fact that if the church is already surrendered and given up to God, then there need be no effort to fit the newly called into some traditional grid or structure or vacancy in personnel. Let us teach the listening skills that may birth a new thing in our churches. For a fun story about the possibilities in church surrender read my Memorial Day sermon about Stop Gap Community Church.

    Third, every called person can be invited, and taught how, to listen to his or her context and the context of his or her church. Pray, discern, discuss in group, and then make an intentional presence in some part of the community. Check service clubs, police department offerings, town hall meetings, city beautification plannings, homeless ministries, races, fairs, art shows, and many other places of community interaction. Check almost any book in my Church Revitalization Bibliography for more ideas. The same skills acquirement and cautions stand when listening in this direction as when listening in the direction of the church as listed in the previous paragraph. Immersion in the context is the first goal of the third listening direction. Service solutions can come later as the Holy Spirit opens hearts and doors. One additional caution in this direction remains: The newly aware person needs to dream and plan only whatever he or she, along with his or her easily recruited friends, can accomplish. This is not an opportunity for him or her to plan for the whole church. Instead, let the projects happen and then the stories be told and others may join.

    In the teachable moment when a spiritually gifted and aware Christian asks how to use this energy, let us invite him or her to continue listening to his or her own gifts and strengths, to listen to the needs in his or her own church, and to listen to the context around the church or his or her home. Both the pastor and the aware Christian might expect that it is the pastor's role to discover, develop, assign, and even lead the opportunity slots for the newly articulated callings among the people. I will caution church leaders not to try to enroll or own anything, not to compel, constrict, coerce, or otherwise control the process of deployment or future storytelling for this church. In this case, the Holy Spirit has taken control and this is the highest destiny possible.

    This kind of listening without enrolling or controlling the resulting vision will honor the Holy Spirit's placement of His people and traverse well the soft spot in Deployment on the path of church refreshment.

    Think, enjoy the process, communicate.


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