Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

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A Missional Menu for Worship Leaders

MSTour1 In last week’s blog, I presented my FIVE FINGERED APPROACH TO HANDING SOMEONE THE GOSPEL on mission:

> First finger: Meeting people at their point of need

> Second finger: … on a regular basis

> Third finger: … in your community

> Fourth finger: … to build relationships

> Thumbs Up: … that lead to WITNESSING OPPORTUNITIES!

But if you read this and don’t do anything with it, it’s totally useless. Here are a few ideas to incorporate this five-fingered-approach-to-handing-someone-the-gospel in your community with your worship ministry:

  1. Adopt a community theater. Enlist worship ministry members as volunteer ushers for shows. Provide food for cast and crew for rehearsal evenings when they come straight to the theater from work.
  2. Adopt a museum. Worship ministry members sign up to serve as volunteers for children’s programs, family days, or story-telling festivals at local art, history, or natural history museums.
  3. Adopt a public school music program. Assist your local public school music teachers by providing volunteers, sound equipment, spotlights, risers, or other needs.
  4. Present concerts in public venues on a weekly basis each summer. Feature your worship groups and individual artists. Train your church members to begin casual conversations that can lead to relational witnessing among the audience. Face painters and balloon artists can also provide a witness to Christ.
  5. Plan a mission trip to your own community for your music and arts groups of all ages. Spend mornings and afternoons in construction work, music camps, sports camps, or mission Vacation Bible School in a nearby apartment complex or mobile home park. Arrange concerts in the evening in the same locations where you have served in the mornings. Train your team in personal witnessing for every situation encountered there.

What does your worship ministry include: praise band, worship choir, praise teams, ensembles, senior adult choir, instrumental groups, children’s choir, handballs, soloists? Every group in your worship ministry can be assigned an ongoing mission opportunity in your community. Hopefully, the above list will start your creative thinking. But again, if we don’t develop a specific five fingered plan and put it into action, it is of no use!

Let’s start a music-arts mission movement that moves us where spirit and truth are at work, igniting worshiping disciples to be on mission in our communitites. Let’s move out to the places where God has been all along.  — Mark Powers

McNeal, Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, 22–23.



Why I Started the M3 MusicArts Mission Movement

Hospital Clowns 3In 2008, God called me to serve the South Carolina Baptist Convention as worship and music director. After two years in this position, I felt God calling me to start a movement of church musicians and worship leaders to become worshipers on mission. The vision God gave was to revitalize our worship ministries by becoming missionaries in our communities. In South Carolina, we are calling this movement M3: The MusicArts Mission Movement. Along the journey, I have learned that a movement is far more than starting another church program. A movement has motion only when we are following God and he is moving people to join him on mission. God is always on the move.

Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21, NIV 

What is the methodology of the missional mindset? I call it the Five-fingered-approach-to-handing-someone-the-gospel. It takes all five of these missional elements to hand someone the gospel on mission. Here is my five-fingered definition of missions that will help you hand the gospel to those around you:

  1. First finger: Meeting people at their point of need . . .
  2. Second finger: In your community . . .
  3. Third finger: On a regular basis . . .
  4. Fourth finger: To develop relationships . . .
  5. Thumbs up: Which lead to witnessing opportunities.

Church members typically think of missions as something we do away from our hometown. But joining God on his mission of redeeming the world starts with those around us. America is a huge mission field, and God is calling every Christian to be a missionary. If any element of the above definition is missing, we will fail to hand the gospel to those around us. If we assume we know their needs, we will miss them. If we only go once or twice a year, we will miss them. If we simply sing songs or hand out tracts without relationship, we will miss them. And if we do the first four without witnessing to the transformational power of Jesus, our efforts are no more than social gospel, and we miss the opportunity to offer them Christ.

The five-fingered-approach clearly defines what is missional and what is not missional. Simply presenting a church program on the street corner is not missional. Church programs designed for worship sound like a foreign language to those in our community. Granted, this is an easy way to check missions off our list and feel good about ourselves. However, this approach is largely ineffective for at least two reasons:

  • The right to share something as serious and confronting as the gospel must be earned. We earn the right to share the gospel by first meeting needs.
  • The gospel is best expressed in the context of relationship. Relationship is the context for transformational discipleship throughout Jesus’ ministry. Effective mission happens in relationship.

We can’t just throw an occasional bucket of seed and water on the field and call ourselves farmers. But that’s what we do when we present programs in our community once or twice a year and call it missions. We know it takes more to earn a listening ear, but we hesitate to invest in relationship and service.

Reggie McNeal has often reminded us in his writing and speaking that, for Christians, life is a mission trip. In his book, Missional Communities, McNeal wrote: “Through the years the program church redefined the game to match its scorecard and was not willing to be accountable for its impact in the world . . . The result was that what it means to act as salt and light was changed into church members’ being marketing agents for church membership . . . Abundant life was contorted into church engagement. In the meanwhile, families are estranged, people go hungry, cynicism and fatalism hold hope hostage, while church leaders fret over meeting budgets and lament dwindling member support for an overstuffed church calendar.”4

We must do better, my friends! There must be more!!! We must re-focus our churches on dynamic worship that moves us to make disciples and lead them on mission to our communities. That’s GOING FULL CIRCLE. Let’s go!   — Mark Powers

McNeal, Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, 22–23

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My Missional Testimony – How I Got Here!

IMG_0422Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’?

I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

John 4: 35, NIV

Can you see the harvest? Lives without Christ are fertile ground for seeds of the gospel. But like a farmer, our vision and motivation go beyond the planting. Can you envision the coming harvest before the field has even begun to sprout, while the seeds are deep in the ground? Joining God to harvest our world takes faith to see the unseen, then hard work to cultivate the crop. In God’s harvest, he is the farmer directing the process, and we are his field hands. Joining his mission means we must roll up our sleeves and get our hands in the earth.

In the first church I served, we spent major amounts of time and effort joining forces with other local churches to present large productions. Our intent was to attract non-believers in our town to experience the gospel. In my next church, I started a community chorus for that same purpose. These were valuable worship experiences and enriched the spiritual and artistic lives of the participants. But they did little to move us out of the church and into our community. From there I went to a church that produced a large living Christmas tree presentation annually. In my last stop in local church ministry, I produced and directed a Christmas pageant aimed at evangelizing our community and region. Twenty-eight years of ministry were invested in those four churches with many long hours spent on productions.

For decades, music ministries have put tremendous effort into living Christmas trees, passion plays, patriotic programs, and other multimedia extravaganzas. As worship experiences, these productions can be valuable to express our love for God, proclaim the gospel, and inspire us to be disciples on mission. But they must not be our only strategy for outreach. Our primary strategy must be to mobilize Christians, sending them into their circles of influence with the gospel. I’m not saying that celebrative worship events have no place in a church’s outreach strategy. I am saying that they must not be our only strategy or even our primary strategy. If we really want to give a gift to our community, we must go where they are, ask them what they need, then proceed to meet those needs. Then when we present a worship celebration, we can include stories of lives changed through our missions work.

This missional intent was fulfilled in the last of the four churches I served – First Baptist North Augusta. In that church my ministry became refocused on mission to my community. Three mission opportunities had great impact on my life and ministry there. First, our youth minister, Mark Owens, and I partnered to take our youth group on mission to our town and region. Budget cuts forced us to develop local mission projects after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

First, we would target a community. Each day there, our youth minister coordinated home renovation crews and I coordinated mission Vacation Bible Schools in a park, apartment complex, or mobile home community. Each evening we teamed up to lead our youth music groups to do outreach concerts in the target community. The relationships built during a week of intensive service in one location were transformational, both for our participants and those we were serving. We presented these mission projects several times annually in our own community and local resort areas. Eventually this mission-music partnership grew to regularly involve 50 to 100 youth in home renovations, sport camps, beach ministry, mission Vacation Bible School, and mission block parties. I was hooked. The growing maturity we saw in our youth was reflected in both their commitment to discipleship and their depth of worship. Their lives were going full circle.

Second, I became active in the fledgling arts council of our town, serving as president for two years. Third, during my last five years, I served as musical director for an award-winning community theatre – the August Players – giving six weeks or so annually to recruit, audition, train and direct their annual Broadway musical show cast. The relationships developed in the arts council and community theatre gave me a wonderful context for personal mission.

I cannot adequately express the fulfillment these mission experiences brought to my life and ministry. Just as we had seen in our youth group, mission involvement ignited my commitment to deeper personal discipleship and worship. Going full circle, the cycle of worship-discipleship-mission dawned in my own life. The ministry opportunities through my community involvement outside the church were abundant. I was able to build friendships and working relationships with countless friends in all stages of spiritual need and spiritual development. I was able to point many friends to the power and grace of Jesus Christ. My vision for the harvest was enlarged. Yet, I could have done even more had I been more intentional in those opportunities.

It is a difficult journey of learning and faith to let God transform our thinking into the missional mindset. But there is joy and excitement when God shows you a new life as a missionary in your own community more closely aligned with his Word. And joy is multiplied when you are able to bring along others to join you in the fields of harvest. Try it… you’ll like it!  — Mark Powers