Deployment. Several years ago this word was puzzling to me as I was hearing this term used in the context of the strategic mission statement of a large church. The term was the third component of a three-tier guiding strategy: “Evangelism – Discipleship – Deployment.” I understood the preaching and teaching of the gospel (Evangelism) and the maturing growth of followers of Christ (Discipleship). But I was struggling with the “Deployment” term. What did it really mean? And what did the church think it was doing on that front?
Webster defines the verb “deploy” as follows: “to organize and send out (people or things) to be used for a particular purpose.” Okay. This makes sense somewhat as the church first preaches the gospel, then develops believers, and then sends them out into the world, deployed, for the Kingdom.
Then why was this still bothering me? What was this struggle with the “deployment” issue?
It’s More Than a Mission Trip
At that time I was observing a common and encouraged church “deployment” activity of sending Christians out on local or international “mission trips.” These programs included trips to the inner-city to feed and serve the homeless, to Mexico to build houses and support local church youth programs, even to South America and parts of Africa and Eastern Europe to support various local church and parachurch initiatives. All very good programs and very powerful experiences for those who participated at both ends of the mission effort. Even myself and my own children participated in these programs. Good for us.
The problem is that I found that the proactive effort of “signing up” and participating in various well-designed church ministry activities and outreach programs to be potentially a works-based effort, good works indeed but, to me, a bit of manufactured Christianity. Deployment had to be about more than organized good works.
One evening I questioned the head pastor about my deployment dilemma and got a reasonable answer that true deployment sprang from the heart, was not forced, but exuded from the believer. I drove home that night re-energized and took my question directly to God in earnest prayer. How are we Christians really to be deployed?
Immediately a very odd thing happened as I was driving. Never had this experience before. Clearly out of the blue, the words “Parable of the Sower” popped into my mind. No sound, just the words in thought. I was confused. What did this have to do with my question? Then an even more bizarre thing happened next. The words “John 15” popped into my mind. Now I knew something was up because up to that point the whole “I am the Vine” passage in John 15 was one of my least favorite Bible passages. Honestly it literally bored me as I’d heard it so often and thought I understood it. So much for Christian maturity. God does have great patience with His immature children who eagerly seek Him.
Answers in Scripture
I excitedly rushed into the house and went right into my office and looked up the Parable of the Sower (see Luke 8, Matthew 13 and Mark 4). The sower is God, the seed is the Word of God. The 4 ground types and outcomes are those who hear the gospel message and respond based on their heart/life condition. The best is that “good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
I then flipped over to John 15 and the powerful “I am the true vine” passage. Christ is the vine, God the Father is the vinegrower. We the people of the church are the branches. God removes branches and prunes productive branches so that they may bear more fruit. There is no fruit bearing unless one abides (connected in relationship) with the Vine (Christ). Apart from that connection there is no fruit. No matter what the works. So, deployment, without a connected relationship with Christ is good but not God or Spirit-led fruit producing.
It’s the Fruit from the Pruning Hands of God
It’s all in the fruit, not the activity. The church is to present and teach the Word of God, develop and equip the saints as deeply abiding disciples of Christ. The rest is on God. His Spirit sends out and deploys for specific purposes – His purposes (see 8/3 post A Singular Calling). Through our Christ-abiding and surrendered hearts, minds and souls we are led to produce good fruit for the Kingdom. Nothing forced, not of our own good intentions. It’s the obedient and fruit-bearing Church in the hands of the Master Vinegrower.
Are you bearing fruit in Spirit-led deployment?
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” – John 15:8