GoingFullCircleBlog

Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ


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One Simple Resolution… Grow Disciplemakers! That’s it.

GFC icon And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,

but let us encourage one another.

Hebrews 10:24–25a, NIV

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? I make a few myself. But here’s the one that really counts in God’s Kingdom: “To Make Disciples Who Make Disciples!”  OK, Worship Leaders, do you have a plan for developing disciple makers in your worship ministry during 2017? NO?  Why not?

Come on, let’s get on it!  There are many great plans out there from all kinds of sources.  Go find one.  If you need some ideas and materials, email me at markpowers@scbaptist.org and I’ll send you several that we promote from our offices.

But make sure, whatever you do, that you use a method that fits TODAY’S SOCIETAL NEEDS!

Avery Willis in 2005 noted the changes in America that are opening the door for storying in our own society: “The post-modern culture drives much of the revival of storytelling in the United States . . . Most of today’s younger generation and even many of the baby boomers of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s prefer to learn through spoken and visual means rather than written word. There is also a preference towards relational, non-linear learning . . . The problem before us is that most of our preaching, Bible studies, evangelism and discipleship are reader-oriented and very linear-sequential. So how do we change? That is the question of the hour. We must do something before this wave engulfs us and before we lose a whole generation for the cause of Christ.”

If you don’t understand Bible Storying as a disciple making method then STAY TUNED to this blog all during the month of January as I lay it out for you.

Jesus knew the power of stories to communicate truth. When we think of Jesus, we naturally think of his teaching in parables. Stories conveying truth occur throughout the Bible. Bible stories are actual historic accounts while parables are metaphors that are developed to illustrate a point of truth. Both are wonderful means of conveying truth through storying.

The simplicity of the storying method of Bible study is obvious. This simplicity creates a reproducible process in a relational environment, and this is the key to the method’s appeal and accessibility. Using this simple method, you can start a full circle group in your worship ministry and lead it to multiply throughout your church and community every six to twelve months. And further, by adopting a mission project for the duration of your group, you are creating a missional community with a goal of establishing a mission outpost that may become an indigenous church with ongoing cultivation.

Get Ready… Get Set… GO make disciples who make disciples!  — Mark Powers

— Willis, “Storying Going Mainstream.”


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“Rabbi” or “Lord”… What is Jesus to you?

Businessman Balancing SomethingWhile they were eating, He said, “I assure you: One of you will betray Me.”

Deeply distressed, each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord.” . . .

Then Judas, His betrayer, replied, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” “You have said it,” He told him.

Matthew 26:20-22,25-26, HCSB

Disciple or betrayer, the difference is found in one small word. The disciples called Jesus “Lord,” but Judas called him “Rabbi,” which means “teacher.” Many in the world know information about Jesus. But knowledge alone does not make a disciple. When Jesus is our Lord, he is our master, our spiritual boss, our authority. “To Judas, Jesus was a rabbi he respected, spent time with, and learned from, but Jesus was not lord of his life. Judas never surrendered his will to Jesus. He was informed but never transformed.”1 A disciple’s life is the expression of deep love for our Lord and Savior who transforms us daily through his power.

In previous blog posts, we studied the transformation process Jesus outlined in the Beatitudes. There we discovered how God transforms believers into disciples. How can we partner with God to develop a plan which will lead worship teams through transformation? How can we provide experiences to grow worship teams into missionaries?

Across the next three weeks, I will present a three-step plan to transform your worship team into a missional worship team.

Step One: The Missional Life Retreat.

Step Two: Missional Moments in Rehearsals.

Step Three: Full Circle Groups

Don’t miss it!  I’ll see you here next week.  — Mark Powers

1. Geiger, Kelley, Nation, Transformational Discipleship, 19.


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Leading through Change: Step Seven – Celebrate the Victory

Signs of Change At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem,

the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres . . . I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks . . . And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy.

The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.

Nehemiah 12:27, 31, 43 (NIV)

You have envisioned the dream, shared it with others, and led them to join you in accomplishing it. It wasn’t easy, and bringing it to reality required leading in the face of criticism and challenges. But you led through change into action. Now understand, this is only one small step in a long journey. Leadership experts remind us that it takes five to seven years to truly change a culture. So dig in and lead for the long haul.

Now God stands ready to show you the next missional step he has for you in the journey. Before you move on to your next mission there are two things that are crucial:

  1. Worship, praise, and thanks to God;
  2. Reward and recognition of the people.

When we praise God for success, we are recognizing that God gave the vision and all the resources to accomplish it. Because everything in life flows from God and to God, diverting any of the glory for ourselves is foolish. Leave no room for anyone to think you brought the victory. Offer your sacrifice of praise with such totality that there is no mistaking that God is getting all the credit.  – Mark Powers

 

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When Change is Hard… Three Things That Can Help

Signs of Change Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?

Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.

Jeremiah 13:23, NIV

In the cover article entitled “Change or Die” for Fast Company magazine, May 2005 edition, Alan Deutschman posed the question, “If you were told today that you must make significant changes in your lifestyle or face imminent death, could you make the necessary changes? Yes, you say? Try again. Yes? You’re probably deluding yourself. Here are the odds, the scientifically studied odds: nine to one. That’s nine to one against you. How do you like those odds?”1

Deutschman reported that in 2005, at IBM’s Global Outlook Conference, a panel of experts was enlisted to study the American healthcare crisis. Healthcare at that time was consuming an astounding 15 percent of our Gross National Product at 1.8 trillion dollars a year. As the dream team of experts took the stage, everyone held their breath in anticipation of a breakthrough. What was the answer from their exhaustive research?

Ray Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum, told the audience, “A relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health-care budget for diseases that are very well known and are by and large behavioral.”

Edward Miller, dean of the medical school and CEO at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, continued the report: “If you look at people after coronary artery bypass, ninety percent of them have not changed their lifestyle. That’s been studied over and over again. Even though they know they have a very bad disease and they know they should change their lifestyle, for whatever reason, they can’t.”

In other words, most of us are sick because we refuse to change our basic behavior to get well. When faced with the choice to change or die, nine out of ten of us refuse to change. In fact, the panel discovered that CEOs, supposedly the primary change agents for their companies, are often as resistant to change as anyone and as prone to backsliding. Do you think that might also be true for church leaders?

What set apart the 10 percent of heart patients who embraced change from the 90 percent who rejected it? The answer gives us some important insights into motivating change. Deutschman cited John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor who studied dozens of organizations in the midst of upheaval: “The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people . . . Behavioral change happens most effectively by speaking to people’s feelings. In highly successful change efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems or solutions in ways that influence emotions, not just thought.”

The ability to manage change will always depend on the quality of your relationships. Remember, Christianity is foremost a relationship with God through Christ, not a religion. So resolve to build relationships ever deeper as the context for your leadership. Then, in the context of relationship, influence the emotions of worshipers to embrace change by:

  1. Asking powerful questions: We can move worshipers emotionally by asking them leading questions. Good questions first help them identify the emotional issues blocking their objectivity. Next, questions can lead them to discover missional solutions they can embrace. Finally, your questions should move them toward personal commitment to spiritual growth. Transition your relational methodology from providing answers to asking questions that motivate change.
  2. Using the storying method: Storying blazes a trail through our emotions to our intellect. Bible storying connects our heart with God by speaking to our feelings. That’s why Jesus taught the crowds in parables.
  3. Sharing powerful missional stories: Real life stories are an effective way to inspire change. Present the problems first and then tell the success stories of those finding missional solutions to problems in your community.

Leaders today must find new ways to reach people’s hearts to affect life-change. Leadership specialists are helping us see that true leaders first sell the problem before they sell the solution. Present the problems in ways that move us emotionally and challenge our hearts.

Changed hearts lead to changed people. Changed people can change churches and our world. 

What specific ways can YOU apply these principles to your leadership?  — Mark Powers

Deutschman, “Change or Die,” Fast Company, page unknown.


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Here’s Why I’m Not Big on Blended Services

wondering Our “blended” worship is often restricted to a blend of only contemporary and traditional church styles. A true blend must be more representative of the musical heart languages of our church and include all musical styles prevalent in our community: bluegrass? urban? pop? etc. etc. To be honest, though, I believe that worship is more effective offering different styles in multiple services wherever believers differ in their musical heart language, as opposed to simply offering one blended service. Different services of different styles allows traditional worshipers to continue to embrace the hymnody of the past while other groups embrace styles that resonate with them.

And most of our church members are not spiritually mature “to wait their turn to get what they want.”  That’s why blended worship has often been called “the equal opportunity offender.”

Radio stations understand that blending seldom works. Top forty stations don’t offer a daily classical symphony; country stations don’t suddenly break in with a few jazz selections, and rap stations don’t program an occasional hour of contemporary adult hits and oldies.

So if we are going to truly connect our people with God in deeper discipleship and active missions, we must know our church’s heart languages. Too often we assume we know our people and their favorite styles of expression. Have you polled them lately to see exactly what their heart language is?  Email me at markpowers@scbaptist.org if you would like to see some samples of worship polls for your congregation.

One thing the radio preference chart shows in last week’s blog is that we probably don’t even know what they are listening to on their way home from church. (Click here to see last week’s blog: http://wp.me/p4ybbl-az.) It is dangerous to assume we are on target with our worship planning and are speaking their cultural language without researching it.

Or worse, we are being just plain arrogant if we think we know what is best for them and what style God prefers. 

— Mark Powers

 


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What Style of Worship Music is Right for Your Church?

Question-MarkOur Missional Music

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him.

Acts 17:16–18, NASB

Ethnomusicology is the comparative study of music from different cultures. Ethnomusicologists combine the study of musicology with anthropology to analyze music as a reflection of society and culture. Missional ethnomusicologists encourage the development of indigenous Christian songs produced by the local believers in their own language and music system. Music workshops are presented to native peoples illustrating the value of using local music systems rather than foreign systems, thinking through Scripture passages that might be put to music, composing new Christian songs in their own native style, and recording the new songs. In this way, the gospel becomes incarnate in the musical language of the native people.

A Brazilian missionary reported that a Palikur woman was asked, “Which do you like better, the hymns with non-Indian music, or the ones with the Palikur tunes.”

She replied, “We like them both, but the ones with our music can make us cry.”

Using the heart music of a people connects the gospel with their own legacy. Missionaries have reported that native people, normally apathetic about Christianity, listened with great attention to the words of new Christian songs written by their own musicians in their own style. Putting the biblical message in an indigenous style gives it an authority it would not otherwise have. We, too, must be ethnomusicologists. Worship leaders need to analyze their communities to effectively connect them with God in their indigenous cultures.

Paul was very careful to analyze the surrounding cultural context wherever he went. In the above Scripture, we see him relating to Jews in the synagogue, to Athenian citizens in the marketplace, and to Greek philosophers. In every one of those contexts, Paul saw idolatry alive and well. As a missionary, each of us must analyze our context as well. Who are the people groups in your community/town/city? And what are the idols they have substituted for relationship with almighty God?

The Intercultural Institute for Contextual Ministry offers many resources on its website, http://www.iicm.net, for analyzing the ethno-musical context of our communities. First, we must know the classifications and characteristics of people groups in general before we can analyze who is in our community. IICM identifies these American communities listed below.  Plus, according to Arbitron radio ratings, I have listed the most popular style of music each of these communities were listening to by percentage of radio market. These style preferences are the second thing we must know:

  • Upscale Communities – Affluent families living primarily in suburbia but also in posh neighborhoods in urban settings = ADULT CONTEMPORARY MUSIC.
  • Mainstay Communities – A diverse mix of ethnically mixed singles, couples, and families in established, diverse neighborhoods within small towns and second cities = COUNTRY MUSIC.
  • Working Communities – Racially-mixed, lower middle-class blue-collar households living in older towns = COUNTRY MUSIC.
  • Country Communities – Rural families with outdoor-oriented lifestyles working in agricultural and mining communities = COUNTRY MUSIC.
  • Aspiring Communities – An eclectic group of young, mostly single, ethnically-diverse households living in homes, apartments, and group quarters = URBAN CONTEMPORARY MUSIC.
  • Urban Communities – Ethnically-diverse singles and single-parent renters living in struggling-diverse, inner-city neighborhoods = URBAN CONTEMPORARY.

Obviously, this data is limited because it only includes radio listening habits and does not include data from personal listening devices. But despite those limitations it remains useful for analysis of general music trends in our American communities.

Here’s the kicker… Churches far and wide have started contemporary services using popular musical styles that they suppose will connect their members with God and be attractive to the world. Such Christian writers as Chris Tomlin, Tommy Walker, Laura Storey, and Paul Baloche, as well as a multitude of others, have given us wonderful songs of worship. Their songs are in a pop style that relates to those who listen to Adult Contemporary radio. But that’s where this strategy breaks down, and here’s why. The Arbitron ratings show clearly that the leading radio style is Country music in Mainstay, Working, and Country communities. Urban Contemporary music, which includes rap and hip-hop, is the leading style in two communities —Aspiring and Urban—while Contemporary Hit radio leads only in Upscale communities.

The style of music being used in most contemporary worship services best compares with Adult Contemporary secular radio. If we are going to effectively connect all people with God, we must offer worship in other musical heart languages as well. Yet how many churches do you know that are offering a worship service featuring country, rap and hip-hop, top forty, or the myriad of other styles available? Can we truly think we are connecting all worshippers with God when only contemporary and traditional styles are being offered on any given Sunday?  — Mark Powers

 


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Combine your Worship Services OR Stylistically Separate Them?

Blessed BeOur task as worship leaders really is simple. We plan God-focused worship in the heart language of our church. We grow them as disciples. Then we lead them on mission to learn the heart language of the target group to whom God sends us. With this understanding, our slavery to attractional thinking can be broken. No longer are we laboring under the mandate that we must get the world into our church to win them for Christ. We are free to connect Christians with God in a style that fits them best so that they can be sent on mission. If this means offering different worship services in different styles, then so be it. Meeting people where they are in their heart language to communicate the gospel is the essence of being missional. And if you are afraid of creating different churches within your church, remember that unity comes from a unifying mission, not simply sitting in the same room at the same hour once a week.

So, the deciding factors in providing multiple worship services in your church to meet multiple needs are:

  1. Spiritual Maturity: If your church’s members are spiritually mature enough to sacrifice their own heart languages for others, you can provide only one worship service. Aim the worship style at the majority, but include the wider spectrum of heart languages from time to time.
  2. Resources: If your church does not have the size or resources to offer more than one service, you can provide only one service and offer as many of your congregation’s heart languages as possible in that service. Constantly teach them to focus on God and call them to sacrifice for each other. But beware, you may discover why blended worship is sometimes referred to as “the equal opportunity offender.”
  3. Missional Intent: If your church has the resources, spiritual maturity and missional intent to offer worship in a variety of heart languages, then, by all means, do so. But don’t just guess at the heart languages of your congregation. Research and poll them to target their heart languages as closely as possible.

I certainly believe that most of our evangelical churches have the ability and resources to offer different services in different styles. But please remember the most important point in all of this. We must know that the goal of worship is to connect us with God so that we grow as disciples who make disciples. Worship can never be about us. If we discern our church’s heart language simply to meet our own needs and keep us happy, we will have missed God’s intent for us as his children.

No more forcing a worship culture on a congregation under the mistaken assumption that it will help win the world for Christ by getting people into church. No more arguing about which style is better. No more worship wars resulting from putting our preference on the throne. What a relief! Simply start where your people are and use their heart language to connect them with God, grow them as disciples, and send them out to join God’s mission.  — Mark Powers