Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

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Hey, Get That Cotton Out of Your Ears

wondering The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,

but the folly of fools is deception. Proverbs 14:8, NIV

I was the guest leader at a small church for morning worship recently. I led the worship songs, directed the choir, and encouraged the worship leaders and members to make worship their lifestyle. The accompaniment to the worship songs was the pianist and a lone guitarist sitting beside the unused electronic organ. As I led the songs, I noticed that the pianist was struggling, but the guitarist was fairly adept at accompanying. His guitar amp was sitting on top of the organ facing the congregation, but I could hardly hear him. After the service, I complimented the guitarist and suggested that he turn up the volume so as to be a more effective accompanist. I also wanted to suggest that he place his guitar amp behind him so that he could hear himself better. As we talked I noticed that he appeared to be hard of hearing. After a few words he reached to his ears and pulled out a wad of tissue from each ear.

Grinning at him, I asked: “Why did you have those in your ears?”

“Well,” he said very seriously, “our pianist went to hear the Gaither Vocal Band and she told me they had these things in their ears to help them hear, so I started putting these wads of tissue in my ears each Sunday, and it really helps!”

Obviously, the electronic in-ear monitors the professionals use are not the same as wads of tissue stuck in your ears. I tried to explain this to him but soon gave up.

Like the fellow with the tissue in his ears, we don’t know what we don’t know. If I asked you, “What is the most important thing right now that you do not know,” of course, you would say, “I don’t know.” Why? Because we don’t know what we don’t know.

If someone we respect tells us something, then we assume it is true. We have no real reason to doubt because it seems right to our way of thinking. Once we try it, and it seems to work, we continue to do it. We may grow up hearing a half-truth all our lives, but because everyone is telling us and it seems to be working, we believe it. So we sometimes foolishly live in deception because we just don’t know what we don’t know. Someone has said, “One thing we learn from history is that we seldom learn from history.”

So if we as worshipers and worship leaders really want to be a part of the solution, we must find out what we don’t know.

  • Do you want to help prevent our Church Train from the landslide looming in the distance?
  • Will you accept as truth the statistics of church decline and resolve to do something about it?

It demands a long, hard look at ourselves on three levels.

  1. First, we must discover how we got here. Knowing the track we are locked into will help us know how to build an alternate track to our original destination.
  2. Second, we must rediscover the essence of true worship to see how it can power our train back to our original destination.
  3. Third, we must take a hard look at our worship, comparing it to God’s standard to identify idolatry hidden within.

Without this honest appraisal, our Church Train will continue its mad rush toward the crash. Stay tuned as we begin to explore how we got here.

Are you courageous enough to join me in this journey? Do you care enough to invite someone to join you on this journey (share the link to this blog)? What could it mean to your church to lead them to join us in this journey? – Mark Powers


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Were You There? Devotional for Worship Leaders


Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?

Have you trembled lately? Have you seen God so high and lifted up in power that it caused you to fall down and lay helpless on the ground trembling? Have you been so awestruck in his presence that you could not speak or run or hide, that all you could do is stand there and tremble? Why not?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Have you died lately? Have you seen Jesus so high and lifted up on the cross that it caused you to fall down crying, lying broken on the ground trembling? Have you been so awestruck in the presence of his sacrificial death for you that you could not speak or run or hide; that all you could do is stand there and wish it was you who was dying? Why not?

Were you there when He rose up from the grave?

Were you there when He rose up from the grave?

Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when He rose up from the grave?

Have you lived lately? Have you been starving to know the presence of God? Have you seen Jesus gesture for you to follow? Have you heard his voice calling you to go? Why not?   – Mark Powers

(Work, Jr. and Work, “Were You There,” Public Domain)

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That’s What I’m Talking About!

Dutch Fork Back to School Bash 2012THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!

My friend and fellow worship leader Scott McClellan, of Central Baptist Church in Gaffney SC, sent this report of how their worship ministry and church are bringing missions alive in their community.  Scott has been our MusicArts Mission Movement M3 facilitator for our Full Circle group in Spartanburg.

Scott shares this:

“Our Worship Ministry sponsored a block party at a local apartment complex last Saturday. It really became a church-wide event with lots of participation. We provided hot dogs, soft drinks, snow cones, popcorn, an inflatable slide, and we went door to door handing out invitations to our upcoming VBS. It was a great day but the next day was even better as one of the ladies we talked with on Saturday came to church, accepted Christ as Savior, and has begun a discipleship process. Now our church is planning to adopt the apartment complex for continued ministry. I share this with you because I believe this is an extension of your ministry, Mark.  You are responsible for getting me off the ‘church train’ and on the right track. Thank you!”

Scott continued: “Now, this week we are involved in Jerusalem Project in Cherokee County. Sponsored by the local youth pastors group, this is the 10th year for JP and we have between 600 and 700 youth and adults involved. We are providing home repair for people that could not otherwise afford it and sharing the Gospel. We are roofing, plumbing, painting, building decks, porches, wheel chair ramps, doing yard maintenance, etc, and talking about Jesus. In the afternoon we have had a worship camp at our church (teaching music lessons to neighborhood kids). There are also prayer walks and backyard Bible clubs and other projects happening during the afternoons with worship services during the evenings.”

Here is the link to a newspaper article about Jerusalem Project: http://www.goupstate.com/article/20140716/articles/140719722?p=1&tc=pg

Bravo, Scott, for joining God on mission in your community and growing worshiping disciples on mission in your church!  Okay, who will be next?  YOU TOO CAN DO THIS.  Start praying now and see where God wants YOU to join HIM at work.  – Mark Powers



America is Now the #1 Mission Field in the World

US map“God said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’” Isaiah 6:9, NIV

In studying Isaiah 6, you will notice that God called Isaiah to his own people. In verse nine, God told Isaiah, “Go and tell this people.” He was to announce God’s warning to those who lived all around him. Obviously, there are those like Jonah in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament whom God called to live and preach in foreign lands. However, most of the prophets and apostles God called were sent to their own people. What can we learn from this? Christ’s Great Commission to us includes the call to go both to our own community and to the people groups beyond our own.

In obedience, many evangelical churches take mission trips to other states and other countries. This is good. God calls us to go to other people groups. But too often the participants return from such a trip only to go right back inside their churches and forget those all around them. If a mission trip away from home ignites us to become missionaries to our home community, then it is very profitable. But if missions to those far away is simply a checkmark on our church list before we go back to business as usual maintaining our club car, then we have fallen far short.

Here is how we know we are falling short in God’s call to make disciples who make disciples:

  1. Polls report that, on average, only three out of every 100 church members in the U.S. ever share their faith. Only one of those shares their faith regularly.
  2. The latest statistics point to the fact that North America is the only continent in the world where Christianity is in decline as a percentage of the population. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives (www.thearda.com), the percentage of total population claiming adherence to a Christian religious group in the United States declined from 50.2 percent in 2000 to 48.8 percent in 2010.
  3. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reported in October 2012 that the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans rose from 15 percent to 20 percent in only five years. This increase is most prominent among the young, with one third of those under age 30 claiming no religious affiliation.
  4. North America has the third largest block of unbelievers in the world only after China and India.

Those of us who love the church should be shocked. These facts tell us that North America is no longer the main missionary-sending continent in the world. Instead, North America has become the main mission field in today’s world. Nations once considered by American Christians to be primary mission fields are now sending missionaries to us. All around us are those who have no knowledge of relationship with God through Jesus. Like Isaiah, we are surrounded by those who have hardened their hearts to God and his love. And that hardness is not limited to those outside the church. As in Isaiah’s day, the people of God have hardened their hearts to all God has called us to be and to do.

Which of these is more difficult: To get people outside the church interested in Jesus, or to get people inside the church interested in those outside to share Jesus with them? Indeed, most of us in the church are not sure if we even know people who are not Christian. And beyond that, we are not so sure we want to know them. We are much more comfortable staying in the church club car, making occasional forays outside to issue impersonal invitations to those along the tracks before we scurry back into the safety of the Church Train.

Were you aware of the stats quoted above?  What do these numbers mean to you?  – Mark Powers


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NOW is Your Time

As I’ve said in previous blogs, God’s primary strategy to win the world is to get his church into the world, not the world into churches.  Let’s explore that thought further.

Your Time is Now

Let me be clear. Jesus did attract large crowds of people throughout his ministry. Our worship should be attractive, too. But Jesus continually called his followers out of the crowd to deeper discipleship and mission. Our Lord did not build his kingdom on crowds; he built his kingdom on disciples. If we celebrate the number coming in our front door but fail to grow them as disciples and send them back out that door, we have missed the gospel and created “club car keepers”.

Are we growing true disciples in our worship ministries? Are our churches making disciples who are on daily mission with God in their family, school, workplace, and community? Sadly, the statistics say we are not. This failing is clearly not determined by worship style either. Contemporary worship leaders sometimes think they have achieved the highest of heights with cutting-edge music and technology and their ability to draw a crowd. Meanwhile, our traditional musicians hold onto their performance standards like a child’s security blanket. But neither our contemporary church-starts nor our old-line established churches are showing much long-term success beyond satisfying the needs of the church club car, regardless of what form it takes. Clearly worship style is no guarantee of effective disciple-making.

Regardless of what we call it, our scorecard for doing church right in the institutional church has usually been: counting monetary gifts, counting the number of people in attendance, and measuring the size of our buildings. Yes, these are important in gauging the effectiveness of our churches. But the real shortcoming in this gauge is that it doesn’t measure true discipleship or our heart for the mission of God. How in the world can we measure that?

The real issue is our heart. Regardless of our worship style, we are very likely to repeat these shortcomings for generations to come if we do not grasp the change of heart needed to grow disciples who make disciples. What a terrible tragedy it would be for us to pass down to another generation the misunderstanding of God’s call to be worshiping disciples on mission.

Will you find your prophetic voice and challenge your family, friends, and church to GROW DISCIPLES and GO MISSIONAL? How?  When? Now is your time! 

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So What Will You Say to God?

IMG_0422Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:7, NIV

Just as I heard God asking “Where in the Bible does it say we will win the world by getting them into church?”, the prophet Isaiah also heard a question from God. One day while serving in the temple, Isaiah was overwhelmed by a vision of God in all his power and might. Confronted by the glory of God, Isaiah confessed his sin, and God forgave him. Before we can answer God’s most penetrating questions, he wants to do business with our hearts. Before God can use us we must be broken of our ego and self-centeredness. When Isaiah saw God’s incredible glory, he was awestruck. But he didn’t just stand there thrilled at the awesome display of God’s glory as great entertainment. No, Isaiah was immediately overwhelmed by his own inadequacy and sinfulness. I imagine that he fell down prostrate before Almighty God, his voice trembling, tears in his eyes. “Woe to me, I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips . . .”

Brokenness is an appointment with God that you can’t make, because God makes it with you. If the Lord God can’t work with me, then he will work without me. His mission to redeem the world to himself will be accomplished with or without us. If we allow our heart and ego to be broken, God can use us in his redemption plan for the world. The way up is down; we become instruments of God’s grace when we fall on our face before his presence. God’s call to us, like his call to Isaiah, begins with brokenness. The call of God always starts there, of course.

But God’s call also includes the call to discipleship and mission. God commissioned Isaiah to go to his people and proclaim his prophetic Word. Isaiah might have devalued this vision as simply an emotional reaction to grief over the death of his king. But God made the vision concrete when he said “Go.” Isaiah could have ignored God’s call to mission, fulfilling his duties to the Church Train in the operation of temple life.

But God said, “Go.”

The message that God told Isaiah to preach was not an easy one. It was a promise of captivity because God’s people had abandoned what he told them to be and to do. They had hardened their hearts toward God, and God said Isaiah’s prophetic message would only harden their hearts further, certainly not an inviting job to be called to accomplish. Isaiah probably wanted to run and hide from such a confrontational message.

But God said, “Go.”

Isaiah responded, “Here am I, send me.”

If God told you to take a message to his church that was unpopular and would be rejected, would you say “Here am I, send me?” If God called you to lead your church or worship ministry on mission to the hardened souls in your own community, would you say, “Here am I, send me?” God is calling.  So what will you say to God?

Click here to see a dramatic interpretation of Isaiah 6 by my friend Owen Robertson: http://www.scbaptist.org/resources/video-library/isaiah-6/82

– Mark Powers