Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

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The Vertical Vortex: Worship in Spirit and Truth

When a Samaritan woman stormfront1came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. “Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4:7-26, NIV

When I take a bowl of water and begin to stir it slowly with a large spoon, the water will begin to swirl. The energy from my hand powering the spoon transfers to the water. As I increase the speed of the spoon, the water swirls faster. A vortex occurs in the center of the bowl where everything is drawn forward, inward, and downward simultaneously. If I have filled the bowl to the brim with water, the vortex will send the water out over the edge to soak the table around it.

This is a picture of the worship vortex. God fills the bowl of his church with the living water of Christ. He stirs the water with his mighty hand. His instrument to stir the living water is spirit and truth. Spirit and truth propel our worship forward, inward, and outward simultaneously. The worship vortex draws everything to Christ at the center, then propels us out of the church to soak everything around us with the gospel. The worship vortex is the ignition key for personal discipleship and mission in the life of a Christian.

Mike Glenn, preaching for LifeWay Worship Week in the summer of 2011, shared the vortex analogy. His worship team at Brentwood Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., uses the term “vertical vortex” for the worship experiences they hope to enable for their church. A vortex is something regarded as drawing into its powerful current everything that surrounds it. As I said earlier, Jesus gave the ultimate worship formula in John 12:32 when he said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all to me.” He is the vortex of the universe. When we worship in spirit and truth, the vortex of Christ’s saving power draws all to him.

What is “worship in spirit and truth” and how does it facilitate a vertical vortex in our worship?  STAY TUNED AS WE UNRAVEL THIS MYSTERY RIGHT HERE EACH FRIDAY IN UPCOMING POSTS!  See you here.  – Mark Powers


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Our Discipleship Deficit: How would Jesus fix it?

Businessman Balancing SomethingWhat is the solution in our churches for the “discipleship deficit”? What process will intentionally and measurably build worshiping disciples on mission with God? It is obvious that much of what we are doing now in church is not working to that end. Relying solely on singing and preaching for an hour a week will not build transformed disciples of our Lord. Neither will weekly classes taught by untrained lay teachers or videos presented to passive listeners.

Let’s take a look at how Jesus sent his disciples on mission.

These were his (Jesus’) instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Mark 6:8–13, NIV

Jesus, the son of God, walked this earth where we live. He chose followers and called them one by one to join him. Immediately, Jesus began teaching them about the kingdom of God and their place in it. They saw the glory of God in Jesus’ miracles and were presented with the process of discipleship.

Then something unusual happened. Jesus sent His followers out on mission. It’s amazing. Why would Jesus do such a thing with newly recruited followers who were so green with inexperience? Had they seen everything Christ could do? No. Had they learned everything he had to teach them? No. Had they seen enough to become missionaries? Yes! So, Jesus gave them power and authority, and he sent them to preach and heal. He sent them on mission. The circle of missional living had begun.

Can you imagine how they felt? Were they scared? Or were they naïve, bolstered by false security and eager to “take on the world”? Whatever their feelings, the bottom line is that they responded with obedience. And that is exactly how God expects us to respond.

It was risky for Jesus to send his disciples out so early in their ministry. But Jesus sent them anyway. Going on mission is the hammer and heat through which a disciple is forged. If our spirit must be like purified silver to reflect God, our will must be like iron to confront the world with the Gospel. The strength of a disciple’s will is forged on mission as we take Christ to the world. And when we come back to worship, our worship will mean more than it ever has. On mission we see and know the power of God in ways we can never experience sitting in a church building. Our experience on mission will impact the depth of our worship time and again.

Ed Stetzer, master of missional wordplay, says that church members think their calling is to “pay, pray, and get out of the way so the professional staff can have their say.” We teach our people “passivity, rather than activity.” Those who “spend no time rowing the boat have too much time to rock the boat.”1 The truth is that spectators in the mission of Christ to win the world will almost always be spiritual infants. The famous Baptist preacher from London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, Charles H. Spurgeon, once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.”2 Real worship and true discipleship will not allow us to be spectators to the mission of God. God is calling each of us into the circle of missional living – living as his missionary every day.

It’s a challenge to mobilize our churches to go on mission. But being on mission is absolutely crucial to experiencing the process of discipleship. The church that remains secure inside the church building is like the man who jumped off a 100-story building. As he passed the 40th floor in his rapid descent, he was heard shouting “So far, so good.” Things may seem fine now, but there is a crash coming.

Why can’t we as worship leaders move people beyond sitting and watching? Why do we seem powerless to confront and lead our people to missional discipleship? Are we dysfunctional leaders enabling a dysfunctional membership to remain spiritual babies in our church clubs? Do we unconsciously set ourselves above them as a privileged class of priests, doing the work for them so they remain indebted to us? If we do not lead our members through the circle of missional living they will remain spiritual infants. Do you enjoy leading a worship team that acts like a kindergarten class? I don’t. The circle of missional living beckons us to something far greater—growing worshiping disciples by taking them on mission for Christ in their communities.

— Mark Powers

A GIFT FROM ME: For a free guidebook outlining a simple plan to rapidly reproduce disciples in your relational network, e-mail me at markpowers@scbaptist.org.

1. Stetzer, Great Commission Resurgence Video Conference, White Oak Conference Center, S.C., 2011

2.  Spurgeon, “A Sermon and Reminiscence.”





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A Valentine Devotional for Worshipers

communion cross picture In the Jewish Temple there was an inner room called the holy of holies. The holy of holies was kept private by a heavy curtain. Only Jewish priests of highest standing were allowed to enter and commune with God behind the veil. But Jesus’ death for us removed the veil from God’s presence. At the exact moment Christ died for each of us, the temple curtain was torn open by a heavenly force. From that moment on, God’s presence is accessible to all, his face forever unveiled. Through faith in Christ we become priests of highest standing. In Jesus we enter the very presence of God.  This is God’s valentine to us!

“Man of sorrows” what a name

For the son of God who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim!

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Christ in you is the only hope of glory. No program or event, no institution or club, no style or format, can give you his glory. The glory of God flows from the holy of holies right through that torn curtain into our worship, discipleship, and mission. If there is to be eternal glory in this life, it only comes through the risen Christ. His glory is activated by the presence of the Holy Spirit in us and flows back to the Father in a glorious circle. Are you willing to let him take you full circle?

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,

In my place condemned he stood,

Sealed my pardon with his blood;

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

What curtain has veiled God’s glory for you – sin, pride, materialism, self-centeredness…? What curtain is hiding God’s face from you? What curtain has bound his embrace of you? Step through those curtains into a glorious lifestyle of worship-discipleship-mission. Know God’s love and power then live it in your everyday life. That life will be to you a glorious hallelujah!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;

Spotless Lamb of God was he;

Full atonement, can it be?

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

So what is our Valentine to God? A life of hallelujahs lived in him and for him. May you find that today!  –Mark Powers

NOTE: Please encourage another reader today.  Post a comment and share what God is doing in your life beyond the veil.  MP

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What is a Disciple anyway? Can you define one?

Awestruck Family

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

A Christian disciple is one whose main goal is to be continually transformed by Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit every day. Are the participants on your worship team being transformed into disciples? Are the worshipers in your church true disciples? How can you tell?

In the book The Emotionally Healthy Church, authors Pete Scazzero and Warren Bird identify the levels of Christian spiritual maturity in terms of human emotional development from infant to adult. Here are excerpts from their descriptions of the levels of emotional maturity:

  • Emotional Infant=I am perceived as self-centered. I look for others to take care of me more than I look to take care of them. I am consistently driven by a need for instant gratification. I am unaware how my behavior is affecting others.
  • Emotional Child=When life is going my way and I am receiving all the things I want and need, I am content and seem emotionally well-adjusted. When I don’t get my way, I often complain, throw a temper tantrum, withdraw, manipulate, etc. I interpret disagreements as a personal offense.
  • Emotional Adolescent=I know the right ways I should behave, but I can feel threatened when I am offered constructive criticism. I subconsciously keep records on the love I give out, so I can ask for something in return later. I am primarily committed to self-survival so I have trouble hearing another person’s needs.
  • Emotional Adult=I respect and love others without having to change them. I take responsibility for my own thoughts and actions. I am able to accurately assess my limits and discuss them with others. I am deeply convinced that I am absolutely loved by Christ, so I have nothing to prove. In tune with my own emotions, I can meet others at their place of need and concern.

    The words quoted above from Hebrews 5:12 certainly support emotional health as a sign of spiritual maturity. So where are your worship ministry participants in this progression toward spiritual and emotional maturity? As one minister of discipleship used to tell me, “Most of our church members don’t have 40 years of Christian teaching under their belt, instead they’ve only had one year of Christian teaching 40 times!”

So I ask you, what are you doing in your church and worship ministry to grow disciples? The answers I usually hear are: “We have a great worship service and some Bible study groups,” or “We have something going on every night of the week for our members,” or “I make sure to include a devotional in our weekly rehearsal.” But are we growing disciples? Presenting endless studies that are information-driven are not working. Our declining statistics and increasing incidence of church conflict prove that fact. Contemporary cell group churches often have significantly less than half of their worship service attendance involved in small groups. And traditional churches have lots of activity, but very little measurable discipleship to show for it. We must fall before our holy God and offer completely surrendered lives. Then we must rise to the mission of making disciples.

Who are you discipling?  Make a list.  Is there anybody on YOUR list?  — Mark Powers

(Scazzero and Bird, The Emotionally Healthy Church, 66.)

NOTE: For a simple plan to rapidly reproduce disciples e-mail markpowers@scbaptist.org and request a Discipleship TRIO Guidebook!