Discipleship is more about imitation than information. Mobilizing any group of people for action requires getting feet (boots) on the ground. Mobilizing your church requires getting the feet of your congregation into your community. When your people are in a position to be the light God has called them to be, will their walk add to the credibility of their message or will it destroy it? Matthew 6:22-23 says if there is going to be light, you are it. How brightly your light shines as an individual and as a church is determined by your faithfulness to be that light.
Advancing your church with the Great Commission in the driver’s seat runs on these two foundational rails: biblical knowledge and biblical character. Each rail requires developing skill sets. In biblical knowledge, skills such as teaching people to study the Bible, teaching the Bible effectively, communicating the simple gospel message well, applying the Bible effectively and understanding and teaching biblical theology. This is quite a task, and your church must decide how they will teach and train disciples in biblical knowledge well. Paul challenges us in II Tim. 2:15 to “study to show yourself approved.”
Mobilizing your church requires that the mobilizers be biblically sound and biblically honorable — orthodoxy (believe right) and orthopraxy (behave right). The mobilization of your congregation involves individual sanctification, which is the process in which believers strive, by the Holy Spirit’s power, to be more and more conformed to the image of Christ (II Cor. 3:18). If you are going to declare that you bear God’s name then you must be striving to also bear His image. Building biblical character requires the ongoing spiritual process of increasingly being set apart from sin and moving toward holiness (I Thess. 3:11-13).
There are two extremes in building biblical character. One is legalism, where the legalist is always stating, “Let me tell you what you need to do.” The other is license, where they are always asking, “Who are you to tell me what to do?” The goal must be to avoid legalism and practice grace but also to not be afraid to call sin, sin. In The Leadership Ladder, Steve Ogne and Ken Priddy state the goal as, “To help leaders develop and demonstrate strong biblical character in their lives, reflected in godly behaviors, decisions and relationships.” It is not only what you know but also who you are that will make the difference. How do you build biblical character?
• First, train them in the daily discipline of a quiet time and how to abide in Christ by being in the Word and prayer. Mark 1:35 (HCSB) says this about Jesus: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place; and there he was praying.” Recently, it was reported that the average pastor spends 8-10 minutes a day in prayer and in the Word. I’m not sure of the accuracy of this statistic but would we feel any better if that number was doubled or even tripled? You cannot afford to waste precious opportunities to hear from Him.
• Second, consider extended seasons to be set aside for the process of sanctification to occur. Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature according to Luke 2:52. How did that occur? Luke 6:12 says, “During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.” Biblical character is built and developed in longer times of intentionally being in His presence. In Simply Prayer, Bill Elliff gives this insight: “Any leader who desires to experience the presence must make deliberate time to dial in… Usually, you will make more progress in this one day of concentrated communion than in a whole week of scattered thinking.”
Biblical character is built in the crucible of the wilderness experience, as seen in the examples of Moses, Saul and Jesus. This is where pride is addressed, and humility is valued. This is where my plans, dreams, goals and objectives are surrendered to His will being done. In Hearing God’s Voice, Henry Blackaby reminds us that it was prayer that set the agenda for Jesus’ ministry and preceded the miracles. Prayer brought Him encouragement at critical moments and enabled Him to endure the cross. Prayer kept Him on the cross despite excruciating pain. “You’ll never hear it (God’s voice) if you are not dialed into the right frequency.”
Consider setting aside a day to get away and hear from the Lord, beginning with what you need to do first in order to not only bear His name but bear His likeness. Paul Becker defined a prayer retreat as “A time you set aside to go away and be alone with God.” Notice the intentionality of “a time you set aside.” We are all so incredibly busy, it is easy to be trapped into doing the urgent rather than the important. Is there any time more important than the time you could spend alone with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? If you don’t set it aside, you simply will not have a personal prayer retreat.
• Third, allow the Word of God to define biblical character for you. Mentor others by studying together character-building examples in the Scriptures and holding one another accountable. Study Old Testament characters and learn from their examples, both good and bad. Study the book of Proverbs and simply ask, “How does this proverb speak to my character?” Study the Sermon on the Mount and meditate on the beatitudes, while also considering the wrong attitudes Jesus covers. Study the epistles and listen to the Holy Spirit as He convicts you in areas that need your attention.
You are not perfect, but you should be progressing and growing. You have not arrived at maturity, but you should be maturing. The process of sanctification is Jesus at work in our hearts and lives, building biblical character by not only bearing His name but also His image.