If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a call of God on your life. This call has two dimensions—identity and mission. You are first called to be somebody—to fully identify as a son or daughter of the Father, just like Jesus. Operating from that relational identity in turn defines what you are called to do—your mission, which is connected to the corporate mission of the people of God. Every member of God’s family is called to partner with Him to impact the world with the reality of His kingdom. He has destined you to do great things with Him, to do the impossible, and to overcome evil with good. He has called you to change the world.
You will never fulfill your call to be and to do simply by knowing about your call, however. You must take ownership of your identity and mission. Ownership is a mindset that generates an attitude of authority, initiative, and responsibility. Someone who owns their call thinks, Nobody else can be a son or daughter for me. Nobody else can fulﬁll my mission to change the world. That’s my job. Owners do not sit around waiting for someone else to live their Christian life for them. They have been given resources, opportunities, and responsibilities to accomplish what God has called them to.
One of the things I, as a pastor and leader in the body of Christ, have a passion for is to see believers cultivate an ownership mindset. We will never see the harvest God desires or impact cities at the level we should without every believer taking ownership of their call. It is the job of the saints to do the work of ministry, and the job of spiritual leaders to equip and encourage them to do this job (Eph. 4:11-12). Unfortunately, I typically find this ownership mindset lacking in church culture. Instead many Christians are being trained to think that it’s spiritual leaders’ responsibility to fulfill the identity and mission God has given them.
When we planted Jesus Culture Sacramento, personal responsibility was one of our founding core values. In those early days, we out of necessity kept things simple (and still do)—Sunday services, children’s ministry, and some larger community gatherings. We didn’t immediately build a small group strategy or implement the normal church programs. We knew that as the church grew, we would add more structure and communities to serve people. Our goal was to make sure any structure we were building was equipping people to do the work of the ministry rather than doing the ministry for them. The vision was to build people, not just programs, and see what our people produced.
It was fascinating to see the response of people who had been in church for years. Not everyone who came at the beginning was unchurched or unsaved. Many of them knew how church works. It was not uncommon for people to approach me, asking how they could get plugged into community. Since we didn’t have a small group structure built at that time and things were fairly basic, I encouraged them to invite someone out to coffee or over for dinner. Many of them just looked at me in confusion; they were expecting me to tell them about the systems and structures we had in place for them to find community and weren’t sure what to do when we didn’t have that. Others came to me, asking where our new believers’ class was; they had a neighbor or coworker who had recently received Christ and were looking for the class they should send them to so they could be discipled. Since we didn’t have a new believers’ class, my response was something like, “The new believers’ class is in your living room, and you’re leading it.” I had other people ask what our church was doing for the poor. I assured them that we believe deeply in our mandate as the body of Christ to care for the poor. But when I started telling them stories of what individual people in the congregation were doing to serve the church in our city, they seemed unimpressed. What they had really wanted to know was, “What is the corporation of the church doing for the poor? What programs do you run for the poor?”
Hear me: I am not opposed to small groups, new believers’ classes, or programs to care for the poor. This is not a commentary on that. Many churches run incredible programs to connect people and serve their city that are having tremendous impact. I’m also not opposed to systems and structure; we have both at our church. What I am opposed to are systems and structure that communicate it’s someone else’s responsibility to do what God has called you to do. With good intentions, we build structures in the church that are not equipping people to live out the call on their lives but rather are stepping in to fulfill that call. As a result, people begin to think that what God has called them to do is someone else’s responsibility.
When you got saved, you became a follower and disciple of Jesus, which means He is the one you are to learn from and imitate. Every follower of Jesus is called to pray, gather in community, share their faith, disciple others, pray for the sick, take care of the poor, further the ministry of reconciliation, and be generous and faithful with their finances. This may be news to you, but it’s not the pastor’s job to disciple your neighbor. That’s part of the call on your life. But we have a generation of people who have grown up thinking that it’s the church’s job to live out their Christian life for them. If your church never had a small group structure, would you still gather with other believers simply because that’s what Jesus asks? If your church didn’t have a program to take care of the poor, would you ask God what you are to do for the poor in your city because that’s your call as a follower of Jesus? Your answers are probably a good indicator of the degree to which you’ve been encouraged to develop an ownership mentality.
I want to challenge you. When you see an area of lack in the church and think, The church should he doing something about this, stop yourself before you go to someone and start complaining about it. Instead take it to the Lord and ask Him, “God, are You highlighting this area of need to me because you want me to do something about it?” Then do whatever He says. Maybe He just wants you to pray that the need will be met. Maybe He wants to show you others who are already working on the problem so you can partner with them. Or maybe He wants you to pioneer something new and build a solution. Whatever it is, you can be sure that it will look like you stepping up and taking ownership and responsibility, not standing on the sideline, critiquing and complaining. God has called you to be someone, and He has called you to do something. But that call will never fully manifest unless you take ownership of it.
Watch Randy Robison’s interview with Banning Liebscher now. Taken from The Three-Mile Walk by Banning Liebscher. Copyright ©2020 by Banning Liebscher. Used by permission of Zondervan Books.