What 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Stetzer, Great Commission Resurgence Video Conference, White Oak Conference Center, S.C., 2011
2. Spurgeon, “A Sermon and Reminiscence.”