The Lay Mobilization Institute: What is it?
Dr. Bryan D. Sims, Associate Professor of Leadership and Lay Development and Director of the Center for Lay Mobilization, sat down to explain what the Lay Mobilization Institute is, how he came to be involved, and what the take-backs are for your church.
What is the Lay Mobilization Institute?
The Lay Mobilization Institute is a four-phase congregational transformation journey that invites pastors and laity to work together in local churches. One of the things that I hear regularly is that churches want to see more fruit or a different kind of fruit. Some churches are in decline or struggling, and they want to see a new day. Other churches are doing well, but they would like to see more lives changed.
I always come back to John 15. Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches. He invites us to abide in him. It is in abiding in Jesus that we produce fruit that brings the Father glory. I talk about the journey and the phases more in this overview video.
Why do you feel the Lay Mobilization Institute is so important to the church?
As I look across the landscape of the American church, especially, there is a lot of decline. There is a lot of frustration related to the fact that former strategies and programs aren’t working the way they used to. We know the gospel is still as powerful as it ever has been, and, yet, for some reason, the church is struggling in many places.
Why is this important to me? It allows us to come back to our first love. To remember that fruit comes as we abide. This is not only a personal image, but also a corporate image. We have a world around us that’s in desperate need. We have a God who’s ready to meet those needs, and yet, too often, we are not deeply connected to Christ ourselves and so we are not deeply connected to our communities. We have to abide. We have to be transformed and engaged together in covenant types of relationships. We have to go into our communities where there is need to literally be the hands, feet and love of Christ.
How are you seeing lives changed as a result of God’s work through the Lay Mobilization Institute?
One of the ways I’m seeing lives changed is seeing pastors realize they don’t have to be in this alone. I see lay people step up to spiritual leadership in the local church and embrace being part of God’s mission. I see covenant relationships and a shared sense of mission and responsibility among pastors and laity together.
It’s all about God’s mission.
The fact that we get to participate in what God is doing and see people not only grab a hold of that, but then also embody it and share it in a simple, repeatable disciple-making process is one of the most glorious things I’ve seen.
But folks who are on the journey say it best. We’ve caught a few of those on video.
What makes this program unique?
For one, it’s not actually a program, but it’s designed to be a journey people take. It’s an environment that fosters transformation in their own lives so they can be agents of transformation in the lives of others. So in a very real way, it’s a shift in identity, such that this affects who we are and who we’re becoming. It’s designed to be the beginning of a new way of life.
Why would I want to participate in the Lay Mobilization Institute?
We know that your context is unique. We’re not trying to come up with a one size fits all solution. We’re providing an environment and process to help you discern and follow God’s direction. We assume that everything needed for transformation where you are is already present through God’s grace, and we’re trying to help bring that out.
How does the Lay Mobilization process work?
At the second consultation, each team partners with an experienced coach. The coaches provide resources during the retreat, as well as monthly coaching between those retreats, walking alongside congregations to transform and mobilize.
What benefits are you seeing in participating congregations?
I can confidently point toward this fruit, not because of my belief in some program or journey, but in the confidence that when people get really serious about being disciples, about living in covenant together, and about making disciples intentionally, this fruit comes. This is the Spirit’s activity. This is primarily about grace and not about what we’re doing with the Lay Mobilization Institute. Because of grace, the fruit that we consistently see is:
- Spiritual depth and growth together.
- Unity and strong teamwork with pastor and laity.
- Clear focus around who we are and where God wants us to go and what we are supposed to do.
- An intentional process for disciple-making that is simple and repeatable.
- Laity becoming and multiplying spiritual leaders and finally, (this is not a comprehensive list), we see
- Engagement in your community. Finding ways to be the hands and feet of Christ, and that may look different in different communities. You can’t walk through this and not begin to engage your community in a more intentional kind of way.
When and how did the Lay Mobilization Institute begin?
The Lay Mobilization Institute began in 2011 on our Kentucky campus at Asbury Theological Seminary. This was the result of many years of prayer and planning and visioning. The Seminary had been dreaming of this for a long time. They wanted something that would help equip laity in congregations and allow the Seminary to be on the ground with local churches. My own experience for more than a decade as a coach with Spiritual Leadership, Inc. (SLI) prepared me for this role, and it is humbling to be part of what God is doing as we see churches transformed.
What are the goals for the future?
Part of my hope is that we have a whole team of folks leading these around the nation and potentially around the world. Our hope is to continue to annually host an event on one or both of the Seminary’s campuses, but also to start at least one new location every year away from those campuses.
We are now interacting with churches from North Georgia, South Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky. We have conversations beginning in several other places around the nation of the possibilities of getting started.
How can I participate?
For more information about the Lay Mobilization Institute, contact Lauren Schrepfer or Bryan Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.2ASBURY.