What does Jesus have to say about mobilization?

What does Jesus have to say about mobilization?

What does Jesus say about Mobilization?

Today, the word mobilization has become a buzzword in evangelical missions. Rightly so, I would argue. But why is it then that mission engagement in the western church is at historically low levels? Ed Stetzer, in his Christianity Today article, Five Reasons Missional Churches Don’t Do Global Missions explains, “In responding to God’s mission, many have wanted to be more mission-shaped and have therefore made everything ‘mission.’ Missions historian Stephen Neil, responding to a similar surge in mission interest (the missio dei movement of the 1950s and following), explained it this way: “If everything is mission then nothing is mission.” Neil’s fear was that the focus would shift from global evangelization (often called “missions”) to societal transformation (often called “mission”). [1]

If the mission has become confused, then mobilization becomes confused as well. The expression comes to mind that, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

For clarity, we need to go back to the Scriptures. What does Jesus say, if anything, about the subject of mobilization? Matthew 9:35-38 is perhaps the clearest passage we have regarding the need of Christian leaders to activate the body of Christ toward strategic mission engagement:

“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Jesus personally traveled through the cities and villages and became very familiar with the living conditions and spiritual condition of the people. He intimately understood their needs. It’s notable that his ministry addressed both the physical and the spiritual condition of the people. Is this holistic approach prevalent in missions today? Or are we polarized in how we think about the Great Commission? Do we swing from strategies that either focus on meeting physical needs alone, or proclaiming gospel truth alone?

Jesus had compassion on the people and viewed them as ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Ultimately, their greatest need required a spiritual solution. Matthew Henry comments that the people in the passage refer to those who have “none to lead and guide them in the right way, none to feed them with good doctrine.”[2] More than anything, they needed a Savior. They needed to understand the love of God and be reconciled to Him through Jesus.

Jesus continues and says that the ‘harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.’ Despite how we might feel about the openness of people toward the gospel, Jesus states clearly that many are ready to receive the message. This should give the church confidence to continue to proclaim the good news to their communities and boldly venture out to the global lost and proclaim the gospel there also.

Next, Jesus acknowledges the reality that the ‘laborers are few.’ This has perhaps always been the case through church history. The mobilization of these ‘laborers’ must therefore be a priority of the body of Christ.

Mobilization can be viewed in two ways. Vocational mobilization may refer to the active recruitment of ministers, evangelists, missionaries, pastors and other types of Christian workers toward a full-time employment role with a church or organization. Holistic mobilization might refer to what is described in Ephesians 4:12 in ‘equipping the saints for works of service.’ This latter form of mobilization involves every person in the body of Christ. Both vocational and holistic mobilization are needed to increase laborers of all types who will engage the spiritual needs of the global lost.

Finally, Jesus gives the greatest action point in mobilization: prayer. I find it interesting that Jesus foregoes the chance to lay out a mobilization strategy. Rather, he chooses instead to zero in on the heart of the mobilizer. He says to ‘pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ There is no question we need mobilization strategies and plans. But none of it can take the place of the kind of dependence upon the Holy Spirit that results from earnest and devout prayer. God is Missionary-in-Chief and he is leading his mission. The very best and first step we can make as mobilizers is to get our hearts aligned with the Holy Spirit. Our role is to follow him as He completes his mission. When prayer takes precedent, then, I believe, we will see a more clarified mission and a more effective result in mission mobilization, namely, that more laborers will be raised up for the harvest.


[1] Stetzer, Ed, Five Reasons Missional Churches Don’t Do Missions, Christianity Today, September 24, 2009.

[2] – Matthew Henry Commentary

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