Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

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What can Fix the American Church? Worship-Discipleship-Mission!

Resources Recommendations  The worship-discipleship-mission cycle is the axis of the Christian life. In the circle of missional living we find the basic process Jesus used to train his disciples. Indeed, this circle is the foundation of the New Testament and a summary of the Great Commission. And today, as we face the statistical decline of the evangelical church, worship-discipleship-mission is the key to restoring the intent and purpose of our churches. If we want our worship heightened and our discipleship deepened, we must be on mission all the time. Please do not miss this! I truly believe that God is telling his church that we can recapture our purpose, our energy, and our focus when we go full circle with missional living.

Have you experienced the dynamic power the circle of missional living gives our lives? If so, then here is a crucial question: Why have we allowed these three elements to become divorced from each other, isolated and compartmentalized in the institutional church? Think about it. We define worship as that hour or so every week we spend at church in a worship service. Discipleship has been reduced to the number of video studies we’ve attended. And missions is sending someone else to a foreign country. As my friend Curt Watke has asked, “How many video Bible studies do you need before you will speak to your next door neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus?”

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers,

you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.

You need milk, not solid food!

Hebrews 5:12, NIV

Worship leaders, what is Jesus’ primary calling to us? If Jesus’ highest calling to the church is to make disciples, is that not our calling too? Is that not the measuring stick for our ministries and our lives, and even our worship? The obvious answer to this question is, “Yes.” My ultimate calling as a worship leader is to make disciples for my Lord Jesus Christ. Because this is the church’s ultimate calling, this is also a worship leader’s ultimate calling.

Yet we struggle with this concept. Our traditional training has led us to believe that worship leaders only provide worship experiences. We leave discipleship to the pastor, education minister, or Bible-teaching organization of our church. Discipleship in the institutional church is too often only a training program for churchmanship. Our strategy for equipping good church members is to fill them with information and hope they become disciples. Then we define discipleship by how many church activities they attend. We have missed the point. Real discipleship is far more.

The Greek word for disciple is mathetes, which literally means “learner.” Discipleship is our ongoing human response of attitude and action to Christ’s revelation of the eternal God of the universe. That sounds like the definition of worship too, doesn’t it? The thesaurus equates a disciple to one who would be a “follower, believer, devotee, and student.” Webster’s dictionary defines disciple as “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.” And that sounds like the definition of a missionary. By definition, worship, discipleship, and mission overflow into each other.

But these secular definitions still miss the essence of Christian discipleship. Simply put, to become a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be totally transformed by him. Christian discipleship is not just behavior modification. True discipleship is more than information accumulation or conforming to a standard. Christian discipleship is nothing less than being totally transformed every day by God in Christ through the power of the Spirit. “He changes the fabric of people’s beings. He brings light to darkness. He brings death to life. He brings old to new. The transformation Jesus offers is radically different . . . Transformation is more than a surface-level alteration: it’s actually becoming something else entirely.”

We are long overdue for our worship ministries to transform our churches by making disciples who make disciples!  — Mark Powers

FOR A FREE GUIDEBOOK to show how you can start Discipleship Trios to disciple 81 people in two years e-mail me at markpowers@scbaptist.org.

1. Geiger, Transformational Discipleship, 9.


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The Circle of Life (Part Two): Worship-Discipleship-Mission

Going Full Circle BookAs I said in last week’s article, the apostle Paul models the circle of missional living that should define our lives. Paul’s missional calling began with personal worship which fueled discipleship which led to his zeal for the mission of Christ. 

Last week we looked at a passage from Romans 11-12 that illustrates one of his expressions of worship that leads to a declaration of discipleship then flows into a call to missions. Let’s look at another passage in which Paul followed this same progression:

Worship: Ephesians 3:14-21, HCSB

I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.

[I pray] that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith.

[I pray that] you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think—according to the power that works in you—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Discipleship: Ephesians 4:1-3, HCSB

I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds [us].

Again, we see an expression of true worship followed by a call to discipleship. In each of the above examples the word, “therefore,” is a trampoline that propels us from powerful worship into the call to personal discipleship.

I propose to you that the circle of missional living for all Christians is worship-discipleship-mission. We must understand that the worship-discipleship-mission cycle is not a step-by-step, one-two-three process. These three elements flow into each other and yet are inter-connected. Each element continually gives meaning to the others. When we grasp what true worship is, it will deepen our discipleship. When we grow deeper in discipleship, we will worship more authentically. True worship and discipleship compel us to join God on mission. When we join God everyday and every moment on mission, the results flow back into worship and discipleship. Can you comprehend how these three elements should work in the Christian life?

Here is how that circle worked in Paul’s life: Paul the missionary was first and foremost a worshiper of God. His worship expressed his deep, transforming love for God. This all-encompassing love led him to yield to God as student and follower. Then, as a disciple, his life overflowed into missionary action. In turn, Paul’s discipleship and mission energized his worship.

May YOU, too, experience the continuous circle of worship-discipleship-mission flowing in your daily life in Christ!       – Mark Powers

POST YOUR COMMENTS:  It’s your turn! How has this circle been expressed in your own life?  Share a testimony with us by clicking on the comment link.  I look forward to seeing your comments!  MP


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The Circle of Life: Worship-Discipleship-Mission

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“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9:1-6, NIV

Who is the greatest missionary of the first century Christian church? The apostle Paul gets the unanimous vote. Here is a man who made a name for himself by persecuting and arresting Christians. His birth name was Saul of Tarsus and he had learned Jewish theology from Gamaliel, the most noted Hebrew scholar of the day. Paul was present and supportive of the Jewish religious rulers who killed Stephen, an early Christian leader.

One day Saul headed to Damascus to arrest a group of Christians there. On the road, Jesus spoke directly to him from a blinding cloud of light, calling him to make a 180-degree life-change. Saul fell cowering before the glory of the Lord. In that encounter God gave Saul a new name: Paul; and a new identity: apostle. The apostle Paul spent the remainder of his life making Christ known to the people groups of his world. The one who had avidly persecuted Christians now endured persecution for his own faith in Christ. As the first Christian missionary, Paul carried the gospel across the known world of his day. His do-or-die aim in life became to make disciples who make disciples.

Paul modeled the circle of missional living that should define our lives. Paul’s missional calling began with personal worship that fueled discipleship that led to his zeal for the mission of Christ. Let’s see how this circle is reflected in Paul’s New Testament writings. In this passage a high moment of worship was followed immediately by a direct call to discipleship. We often miss this progression, however, because the passages occur across chapter divisions in our modern Bible. The progression is lost as we stop at the chapter breaks. Paul’s original writing was a continuous letter with no break in thought. Let’s look at these passages as originally intended, as one flowing thought.

Worship: Romans 11:33-36, HCSB

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Discipleship: Romans 12:1-6, HCSB

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.

Paul’s personal expression of worship is a beautiful lyric proclaiming God’s all-encompassing power. We see here that Paul was first a true worshiper. He understood that worship is only for God and his glory. Paul demonstrated a purity of focus on God that truly defines worship. Then Paul’s worship flowed into a compelling call to discipleship that ignited his heart for missions. His missional heart then empowered his personal worship, starting the circle in motion again. This cycle of worship-discipleship-mission was as natural as breathing to Paul.

Read these verses again and let them speak directly to you. Can you hear God’s call to worship him? Can you hear God’s call to discipleship? Can you hear God’s call to become a worshiping disciple on mission?   – Mark Powers

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A New Year Devotional for Worshipers

Jesus3“…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Colossians 1:27 HCSB

While touring a Colonial reenactment site, I saw the silversmith melting silver over a small flame. He explained that he was heating the molten silver until he could see his reflection in it. At that point, he would know that he had melted away the impurities and could use it to make fine jewelry. We must allow God to melt away our impurities in the heat of his flame. Self-assessment, tested by the heat of God’s Word, helps us maintain purity—not of musical preference—but of our passion for God. When our passion for God is pure, like molten silver, our worship will reflect his image and not ours.

I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small,

Child of weakness, watch and pray,

Find in me thine all in all.”

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

When I stand at the foot of the cross and I look up at Jesus—his body torn and his heart broken for my sin—a thought overwhelms me. The power of the cross goes far beyond imitation. I cannot live the Christ life by copying what Jesus might do. I must die. When self is dead, then and only then is there room for Christ in my life.

For nothing good have I

Whereby Thy grace to claim;

I’ll wash my garments white

In the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.

In Christ’s death he shows me how to die for him. In his resurrection I am reborn. Once, we were worlds away from each other—I in my sin and he in his heaven. Then God came to us. The truth of his undeniable love is this: God has given Jesus for my sin, he now lives in me.

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

Lord, put to death my idolatrous ego and use me for your glory. You bought me; I am yours; take full possession. Plant yourself in the center of my heart and grow from the inside out. I surrender to you my worship preferences that have become idolatrous. Take them off the throne and take your rightful place as King. You alone are the object of my worship.   — Mark Powers

4 Hall, “Jesus Paid It All,” Public Domain.