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The Leader as Catalyst – Part 10: Encourage

Encourage: Invite people to join together with Him in what He is doing – and going to do.

Now that you have painted the picture of God’s preferred Kingdom future for the church you serve, the next step is to influence people to engage the journey towards that future. Employing the roles of Envisioner (“See the Way”) and Expositor (“Interpret the Way”) you impart hope through vision and foster resilience required for the journey. The next step in leading change is to call for individual and communal action that will move people towards the vision.

Intentional Invitation

In regards to the pursuit of vision, church leaders too often make a “soft ask” of those in the congregation. Such passivity comes from an organizational approach to ministry. People participating in the church are seen as “volunteers” who serve on an “at will” basis. While it is true that people who engage in the mission and vision of a church do so voluntarily, it is also true that these very same people are disciples of Jesus who can and should be called to engage with Christ and His Church. When people see the Lord moving and are encouraged to join with Him is His work, they will respond:

“Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power,” (Psalm 110:3a)

Jesus, as an itinerant rabbi, was very forward in making invitations to join Him is His pursuit of the Kingdom. His call was direct and unequivocal. He encouraged personal engagement with Him and His mission. It was a relational “ask,” yet with a reason – to “fish” for men:

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him (Matthew 4:18-22).

As with all things in the Kingdom, Jesus’ call was unto relationship with a reason. The Greek word of “fellowship” – koinonia – can be both a verb and a noun. In both forms it really means purposeful participation in or with. So as a noun, it means those who participate together for a reason, and as a verb it speaks of the action of such participation. Christ, in calling His first disciples to Himself, did not just call them to relationship with Him, but also for the reason of the Kingdom. The call is to live the way, and to help others to do the same. It is a “both/and” of being and doing, a way of life. The call is to go beyond just belief in Christ towards the full embrace of His way. Regrettably, the prevailing perspective of seeing people as “volunteers” in an “organization” pushes back on the calling to greater engagement and to true discipleship. Our “ask” tends to be weak, even passive, and sometimes, non-existent. And then we wonder why people have little or no movement towards God’s vision, or why they are so resistant to changes required to accomplish His purposes.

Confident to Call

Right now you might be saying, “But I’m not Jesus!” Your right, you’re not, but you are someone who has responded to His call to take responsibility for His Church and His mission. As one of His leaders, you specifically have a mandate to make disciples and mobilize others to do the same. Catalytic leaders embrace this responsibility, in fact, they thrive on it. Often it is the insecurity we have within ourselves that makes us equivocate about engaging others. We are uncertain how they will respond, if they will reject our calling them forward in Christ, or may even become contentious and adversarial to us. Quite frankly, none of those things inhibited Jesus. He was confident in His calling and knew His identity as the Son. His simply put the call to follow out there, and people would either accept or reject it. Indeed, you are not extending an invitation in on your own, for your own purposes. You are, by the Spirit of God, engaging people towards God’s future, God’s purposes, and His Kingdom. And you do so based on the Spirit’s leading:

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel” (John 5:19-20).

By following Jesus’ example and pattern of ministry, we are not just randomly broadcasting a call towards the vision, but rather engaging individual people towards the Kingdom participation that the Lord has for them:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

The encouragement to engage in the Kingdom future leads to people discovering their calling and place of service within the Kingdom community. While we may speak broadly to many people about what His future desire is for our congregation, we actually offer the direct invitation to those who respond:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:57-62).

The Master was looking for disciples who had “Shema Levot,” the hearing heart, and did not accept any on their terms, but on His alone. As we speak to the crowds, just like Jesus we are looking for those whom the Holy Spirit “pings” within their heart, provoking them to respond. Those whose hearts are open to the Lord, who reflect and think upon the things of God, are those who will take action in response. As much as we would want ALL of God’s people to respond in such a manner, the truth is that most will not – at least initially. That is why we focus the engagement and invitation to join with Jesus in His Kingdom future of our local church on those who respond. Others will follow, but those “early adopters” of the vision are those we should focus on. Truly catalytic leaders don’t waste time chasing the unwilling.

Creating “On-Ramps” to the Kingdom Vision

For those who are willing to pursue the Kingdom future embodied in the vision, there must be discernible pathways that they can follow as means of access to the preferred future. It is not enough to simply share the picture of the future, but it must be accessible for people, with definable steps and actions with which people can engage. For individuals and families to move from point A to point B in pursuit of the vision there must be some practical things which they can do. Most cannot do this simply based on inspiration – they need steps to implement. This is where your role as Implementer (“Define the Way”) comes into play. Those things which comprise the Kingdom way of life you are espousing – spiritual disciplines, patterns of gathering, ways of doing ministry, etc. – are all important elements of moving His people into His future. The more you have defined the way, the more practical access points members of your community can access. Encouragement to engage becomes more definitive, and becomes very real and doable. Accordingly, a larger number of people can move quickly into alignment with the future God intends.

That leads us to our reflection assignment for this week:

· Who should you focus on as “early adopters” of the vision?

· In your way of life that you are proposing for the church you serve, what are the things that people can do

now, today, as an immediate step forward towards God’s preferred future?

· How are you encouraging people, in a practical sense, to engage with the vision?

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