Design and Fit: Nurturing the Call of God in Mobilizing Mission Candidates
by Mark Stebbins
The essential work of mission mobilization is to best fit workers into global contribution.
It’s like the “snap” sound when a puzzle piece fits into place, or the “click” of an inkjet cartridge popping into position. The essential work of mission mobilization is similar in intent to best fit workers into global contribution. A mission mobilizer is part assembly technician, skillfully aligning a mission candidate’s design with his or her God-ordained calling, and part matchmaker, bringing a pinch of romantic flair with fresh excitement into introducing two who are meant for each other.
Design and fit, when taken in tandem, naturally lead to finding the best connection and integration points for a calling synthesis to occur. It’s a given that all believers are God’s workmanship, created in Christ for good works. But how can those called to serve internationally be guided through an often subjective design-and-fit matrix into ideal mission matches? It may be helpful to segment one’s calling into six stages (or seasons) along a continuum:
Stage 1: God’s ordaining of the person’s life before birth for God’s purposes.
Stage 2: A discovery of gifting.
Stage 3: A clear direction from God in the form of tangible leading.
Stage 4: Typically, calling is then tempered by a season of varied testing.
Stage 5: Eventually, a concrete period of laboring in fruitful harvest service emerges and blossoms.
Stage 6: This is crowned by a completing of the work God has given the person to do.
Whether all at once or over time, God’s typical modus operandi for activating and guiding into a calling involves his:
1. interruption of his servant from earthly routine,
2. insight about who God is and who he or she is, and
3. instruction about the person’s role in God’s mission and purpose.
The particular calling into missions is to a body of work, possibly passing through many cycles of awakening, aligning, and assigning to what God has for a believer to effect internationally. Consider how God’s calling of Moses, Isaiah, Paul, and others passed uniquely and creatively through these phases.
Mission mobilizing is the ministry of being an “alongsider” on this journey with others into discovering their global kingdom platform and role. Helping someone steward this calling is as vital as helping the person steward his or her own body. Not only does it involve an understanding of how parts and processes intersect and interact, but we need to identify nurturing practices to maintain and fulfill healthy callings.
Overall spiritual health depends upon keeping calling clarified, actively exercised, and steadily growing in maturity. How do mobilizers effectively nurture this call of God in his precious people, helping them to reach their full potential?
To nurture means “to care for.” Paul describes nurture in 1 Thessalonians 2 as being gentle, sacrificial, and treating as precious. God’s people are treasures in various stages of calling discovery. At any stage of the journey, God endows and allows mobilizers to work creatively with him in moving laborers to places of service. Mobilizers have the high privilege of inviting, coaching, nurturing, and fitting them to where they can bear and harvest much glorious fruit.
Mobilizers understand the critical priority of linking God’s people to positions fitted for them according to their design. Rather than beginning with a menu of targets, tasks, and terms of service, nurturing requires first understanding what God has deposited within. What are a candidate’s tastes, talents, and temperament? What are his or her personal, professional, and ministry tripwires, track records, and testimonials? Open discussion and a range of personal assessment tools for diagnostics and analysis prove to be an ideal starting point for mission fit considerations.
Starting with this broader blueprint helps potential candidates feel that discovering their calling is like embarking on a cruise filled with grace, truth, and love that leads to God-sighting adventures as they explore and discover who they are, along with the work prepared in advance for them to do. A candidate’s pathway in mobilization typically goes through four major intersections:
1. We see them move from large pools of peers as curious inquirers…
2. to become promising prospects who emerge from those pools with specific interests.
3. As they find and commit to work with an agency, the focus becomes their transition into enthusiastic applicants…
4. and then, finally, to receiving training as new agency members.
Each step requires a unique nurturing posture and strategy. To inquirers, I try to be an open-handed, resource connector. To prospects, I strive to be a competent, inspirational coach. To applicants, I hope to be a developmental collaborator. And with members, I want to be a confidence-boosting cheerleader.
Not surprisingly, God keeps design, calling, and fit organically fluid so that we must trust him to lead. Uncertainties, unknowns, shifting circumstances and contexts, new relationships, growth, and change keep the compass needle in flux. Alongsiders can objectively help call out the truths of current locations, conditions, and dispositions to keep the trek on course to wherever God leads. As we journey alongside those God is calling into missions, we serve and nurture in a variety of ways and with our own unique style, according to available resources and candidate needs. We who help fit these candidates will share both in their joys and rewards. May the nurturing light of mission mobilization so shine before men and women that they see your good works and rise up to praise the Designer of Salvation!
The Mission Exchange provides a series of learning initiatives for church and mission leaders. If you have the ability to talk on the phone and access the Internet at the same time, you have all the technology you need to join a webinar! Fall 2010 webinars include:
October 7: Raising the Bar in Short-term Missions: Applying the Standards of Excellence, Jenny Collins, assistant professor of intercultural studies, Taylor University.
October 14: Student Loan Debt: Overcoming the Great Barrier,
Terrill Nelson, director of communication services, SIM USA.
October 28: Design and Fit: Nurturing the Call of God in Our Mobilization of Candidates, Mark Stebbins, director of collegiate missions mobilization, The Navigators.
December 2: Global Church-to-Church Partnership Essentials, Michael VanHuis, executive director of service, Northland—A Church Distributed.
December 9: Metrics in Mission: A Case Study, Kama Bernabo, director of international mission planning and operations, LCMS World Mission.
December 16: Improving Your Organization: Beginning a Journey Toward Feedback-Driven Continuous Improvement, Steve Moore, president and CEO, The Mission Exchange.
Register for the webinars at: www.TheMissionExchange.org/learninginitiatives. For those unable to participate, webinars are also recorded.
Mark Stebbins has worked for thirty-two years with The Navigators, including eleven years in Africa and thirteen years in mission mobilization. He currently serves as Western director and national mission coordinator for the U.S. Collegiate Navigators.
EMQ, Vol. 46, No. 4, pp. 482-484. Copyright © 2010 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.