Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

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A Missional Success Story: FBC Mustang – John Brewer, worship pastor

Going Full Circle Book   Do you like success stories? Check out this article by John Brewer of First Baptist Mustang Oklahoma.  John gets it when it comes to Missional thinking.  You might have noticed that I have not posted a blog here since January.  This neglect of my blog was not planned or on purpose, but a matter of being too busy.  John’s article, though, has inspired me and shown me that my Missional voice needs to stay strong. So I will get back to posting regularly here this week.  Thanks John. May his story inspire you to Missional action:

Let the Levites Arise: Making Your Worship Team An Outreach Ministry

Presented at Fisher-Brewer Worship Retreat, Lee University, Chattanooga TN, April 2017

“Then the Levites arose.” I love these words. They are used several times in Scripture to describe the swift action by the Levitical priests to answer the call of the Lord to do something great. The Levites were in charge of Yahweh’s worship among the Israelites and were to take their job seriously. They were a people of action and when they were obedient, they did some pretty amazing things for the name of the Lord. I fear that many worship pastors are missing the full extent of their “Levitical” ministry because we have fallen asleep and grown lethargic in today’s post-christian culture. In our hands lies one of the greatest gifts God has given to all of humanity: music. The power of music comes from its ability to engage a person’s emotions on a deep level and change lives by presenting God’s Word in the beautiful form of a song.

It is entirely possible that we have become comfortable with crafting the perfect worship set for each Sunday morning while failing to engage the lost world with one of the most powerful weapons of spiritual warfare at our disposal. And as effective and powerful as productions can be, I do think it requires more than a weekend long Christmas, come-all event after which we check off our evangelism box for the year.

The truth of the matter is, even if we create a church culture that the lost world was inclined to visit on a whim, the biblical model of evangelism is still one in which the Church moves beyond its four walls and engages the community rather than expecting the community to come inside our four walls and seek to be engaged. This then begs the question: if we believe that music has the power to move and stir the soul and God still saves sinners through the proclamation of His gospel, then why do we not make full use of these two weapons (music and God’s gospel) together for the sake of seeing sinners saved and the darkness vanquished? How can we be more creative and find ways to leave the church building and engage the community around us?

First, we must acknowledge that too many worship leaders view themselves as only church musicians, completely neglecting the fact that God has given them a specific group of people that they are called to shepherd, oversee and disciple. We are so much more than “professional musicians.” We are pastors called to lead those whom God has given us. Our musicians should be more mature followers of Christ after serving in our music ministry than they were before they joined.

Part of helping people grow to be mature followers of Christ is leading them to makedisciples of all nations. Too often, we think that’s the job of someone else on staff. The truth is, though, we often have more time with particular individuals throughout the week than any other person on the pastoral team. What a responsibility we have as we invest in the spiritual growth and development of these whom God has entrusted to us!

Whether you lead a small praise team and rhythm section, or you have a large choir and orchestra, God has given you a band of soldiers that if properly challenged and equipped, could engage the outside world in a very unique way for the sake of Christ. No one else in your church is capable of doing what you can for your musicians or what you all can do as a team. That is what makes you special within your church and to the watching world as well.

When I joined the staff at my current church 7 years ago, I felt the conviction to change what our worship ministry did for Christmas. While a large scale production still sees incredible fruit for the gospel at many churches, it was no longer serving this purpose at my church. With the blessing of the pastor (which is incredibly important, by the way) we began taking our worship ministry into the community. Over the course of several years, we have performed for various homeless rescue missions, correctional facilities, inner-city foster care and early childhood programs, at risk teen centers, and programs for families and caretakers of children with special needs. While our audiences are not as large as packing our worship center for a musical, the residual effects that have permeated the minds and hearts of our people as they serve the “least of these” has slowly begun to change the DNA of our worship ministry.

This outreach culture has also sharpened the focus of our student and children’s choirs as well. This year, our student choir went to Nashville and sang for rescue missions, juvenile detention centers, after school programs, homeless ministries, and senior adult living centers. For Christmas, our children’s choir sang at the local Baptist Children’s Home and a senior adult living center.

A common theme and observation is how the Lord uses music to break down barriers and walls that people have erected in their hearts and minds towards the Church, God’s people, and the Lord Himself. Whether singing for inmates or senior adults, music often disarms people and allows for the opportunity to talk about spiritual things. Inevitably, it will force your ministry out of the safe, comfortable bubble that we’re accustomed to when doing ministry in the church building. It will be unnerving and it will be uncomfortable, but there’s something about walking through metal detectors at a correctional facility, the smell of alcohol on the breath of someone at the rescue mission, or the lack of hope in the eyes of a single mother in the government housing projects that requires us to trust God and ignites something in the souls of our people. The tension between the comfortable and uncomfortable ministry environments keeps us grounded, focused, and re-orients our perspective to forever change how we see people and approach ministry.

While my particular church has stepped up our worship ministry’s role as an outreach effort, I have personally fallen short by leading us to almost exclusively (save for our student choir) engage in these outreach efforts only during the Christmas season. You may find yourself in a similar situation. Your Christmas season may have remarkable impact on your community as your ministry puts on a major production or some other form of evangelistic outreach. Yet, if you’re like me, it’s easy to forget about the other 3 seasons of our calendar. How much more well-rounded would our ministries be if we sought lost souls with relentless pursuit on an intentional and regular basis throughout the year?

Back in January, I felt convicted of this and have been brainstorming with our team how we might move beyond just the Christmas season in our outreach efforts. God, in His crazy, sovereign plan, allowed me to cross paths with Mark Powers while at a conference in South Carolina. Mark is the Music and Worship Director for the South Carolina Baptist Convention. One of the ways he has left his thumbprint on churches in South Carolina is by calling the worship ministries of the churches in his convention to take their worship ministries out of the building and engage the community.

Mark unveiled a very simple 5 Step plan to being missional in your music ministry.

1. Meet people at their point of need…

2. In your community…

3. On a regular basis…

4. To build relationships…

5. That lead to witnessing opportunities!

The beauty of this approach is the freedom it allows in finding the numerous ways that you can give a mission mindset to your people while maximizing your impact for the Kingdom and engaging your community. This may mean doing some of the things I’ve listed above- singing for various places throughout your community. It may mean putting on a music camp for underprivileged kids. It might mean that your worship ministry adopts a local theater or high school music department- meeting tangible financial or operating needs they might face over the course of a year. It could be performing public concerts in the park. It might be forming a good news club in your local elementary school. Or it could even mean calling your worship team to go out and do service projects entirely unrelated to music. The purpose you are seeking to accomplish is to find a need in your community that your team can meet on a regular basis in order that you might build relationships that lead to witnessing opportunities. What will you do?

Several years ago on our Spring Break mission trip with our student choir, our buses pulled into a quiet neighborhood street in Phoenix at about 8pm. With as little noise as possible, we set up a sound system in the backyard of a home and brought 65 middle school and high school students through the back gate in a single file line. The only persons who knew we would be there were the owners and operators of the home- a place of refuge for 4 pregnant women who were homeless, without family, and had no resources. Once we were set up, the ladies were brought out to a backyard full of people, much to their surprise, for a full blown gospel concert.

Our kids have sung for thousands on an air force base and lead worship at our church all the time, but they still talk about the time they sang for four unsuspecting women in a backyard in Phoenix.

It’s time, once again, for the Levites to arise. As a musician in charge of leading your people to proclaim the name of Christ, you are called to action. Do not fall into the trap of limiting your impact to what takes place on Sunday morning at 11:00. No! Rise up, gather your brothers and sisters in arms, and use the gifts He’s given you and your team to go make a difference in the name of Jesus. He has called you to this church, to lead these people, in this community, at this exact moment in history. Arise.

NOTE: Thanks to John for giving me permission to share this article here!  To access my book “Going Full Circle”, check this link: https://wipfandstock.com/going-full-circle.html

For Missional resources, feel free to email me: markpowers@scbaptist.org.

— Mark Powers


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Take Your Worship Team on Mission: Missional Moments in Rehearsal

Dutch Fork Back to School Bash 2012How can we  teach basic concepts of how to live ON MISSION with God to our worship teams in just five minutes during rehearsals? In my last blog, I shared how to plan a Missional Retreat for your Worship Team to introduce basic concepts and convict their hearts while you are rehearsing music for upcoming services.  Check it out here if you missed it: http://wp.me/p4ybbl-bx

Step Two in growing a Missional Worship Team is to do something weekly that intentionally teaches your team the Biblical concepts of being on mission with God.  Here are some simple easy things you can do:

  • Share stories of Worship Teams from other churches that are successfully doing missions in their own community.  Email me at markpowers@scbaptist.org for a list of those in South Carolina.
  • Show videos with a Biblical mission theme.  Some good sources are WorshipHouseMedia.com, SermonSpice.com, and IgniterMedia.com.
  • Invite local missions volunteers to come and give a testimony of their work in your community.  Communicate upfront with your guest that you are only able to allow them four minutes of testimony and one minute to pray over the group in closing.  Hold them to it.
  • Invite your own worship team members to share stories of how they are on mission in their family, work, school, and other community settings.  This creates a culture of Missional thinking through healthy peer pressure.
  • Invite directors of local homeless shelters, food pantries, prison ministry, and other community missions to present the needs they have in their work and enlist volunteers from your team who can help meet their needs.

Remember to target emotional impact for real change by using stories, Scripture, testimonies, and videos to illustrate each point. Exercise careful discipline to stay on task and within time constraints. Be sure to close with prayer for your team to apply the concept taught each session.

During this step, you, as leader, need to take note of anyone who seems to be hearing God’s call to be a missional leader or leadership team member. Draw from those who show interest and personally recruit them for your mission team that will work with you to plan and produce a mission project in your community. But be careful not to recruit only those who are Innovators, eager to embrace change but not trusted as leaders. You will need trusted leaders possessing influence necessary to move your vision toward action plans and lead in that process. Also, during this step, begin to promote participation in the next step, Discipleship TRIOs.

The call of every worship leader goes far beyond just making it to the next Sunday and providing for moving, powerful worship that connects us with God.  Christ’s Great Commission calls every Christian to grow disciple makers! The BEST context to “grow disciples who make disciples” is when we are on mission with God – THINKING like a missionary, PRAYING like a missionary, and ACTING like a missionary everywhere we go!  — Mark Powers


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Unlock a New Vision to Go to the Next Level

Resources Recommendations But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem,

for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done . . . I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought this calamity upon us and upon this city?

So I purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task. Nehemiah 13:6–7,17–18,30, NIV

Nehemiah’s first vision was to re-build the city of Jerusalem. His next vision was to purify the people. While in captivity and immersed in another culture, they had compromised the purity of their Jewish faith. Nehemiah’s intent was to restore their allegiance to the one true God—the God of their forefathers who would use them to bring forth the Savior. In some ways, rebuilding the city must have seemed easy compared to changing the attitudes, habits, and daily practices of the people.

As you celebrate the victory of achieving your first vision, remember that the process of transformation is ongoing. The mission effort you have begun is very fragile. It must be nourished and protected in order to take root. Regression can happen before you know it. A single accomplishment will be an empty victory if we return to old patterns of hoarding our giftedness inside the “Church Club”. Being missional requires an ongoing intent, focus, and plan to get outside into our community. It will take years for missional thinking to be fully ingrained in an organization that has been self-centered.

Your ability to manage change is always dependent on the quality of your relationships. I am amused to read in Nehemiah how he resorted to strong-arm tactics of pulling hair out and beating up those who disobeyed the laws of Jewish purification (Nehemiah 13:25). A leader must certainly be willing to discipline those who disobey God’s laws. But a leader can never withdraw from the bank account more than he has invested in his people relationally. Nehemiah had said previously: “The earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people . . . Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that” (Neh. 5:15, NIV). We must constantly check our “relational balance statement” to ensure that we are depositing more care, attention, encouragement, and love in our follower’s lives than we ask for in return. That is servant-leadership by Christ’s example.

Once you have successfully accomplished your first ongoing mission project in your community, begin to envision your next work. Go to God and ask him to breathe another vision into your brokenness. Go back to your pastor and begin the circle all over again. Keep on dreaming and leading full circle. Never stop as long as God’s mission of redemption is yet to be fulfilled!  — Mark Powers

P.S. Enrollment in WorshipWise October Session OPENS OCTOBER 1 but CLOSES AT MIDNIGHT, OCTOBER 14.  Check out our 4-week courses for $99 each at http://www.worshipwise.com.


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Leading Through Change: Step Four – Enlist your Leadership Team

Signs of Change  I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors . . . that they will provide me safe-conduct. . . ?

And may I have a letter to Asaph, so he will give me timber. . . ?”

Nehemiah 2:7–8a, NIV

When God gave me the vision to start M3, the MusicArts Mission Movement among our South Carolina Baptist churches, I prepared to send out invitations to key worship leaders. My goal was to recruit six young worship leaders to join me in igniting the movement. But during the month I planned to send invitations, my father became ill and entered the hospital. Three weeks later God took my dad to heaven. Heartbroken, I was ready to delay the whole M3 process. My supervisor convinced me to send out a general e-mail anyway just to see what interest there might be. Within one week, I had six colleagues signed up and ready to jump aboard. God had already spoken to their hearts and enlisted them by the power of his Spirit. I simply needed to believe and obey God’s leadership.

The vision given to Nehemiah to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem must have seemed impossible. But God’s visions are uniquely designed for the one to whom they are given. God will not give you a vision without giving you the innate abilities to complete the task. God will also place around you the resources needed to fulfill the vision. Be open, nevertheless, to sharpening your leadership skills if God leads you to do so.

Make a list of candidates to serve on your mission leadership team and then approach them to share your vision.

  1. Help them see and understand the problems: the world is dying without Christ; churches are in decline; few Christians are being discipled and sent on mission for Christ. Then share your vision with them.
  2. Most importantly, express what you expect they will receive personally from their involvement. Share success stories and testimonies if you have them. All of us have a longing to be part of something with eternal significance. Appeal to that longing in them.
  3. Make sure that they understand that you are recruiting them for a limited time to accomplish a specific task. Few will sign on for unlimited service with no ending point in sight. Then step back and see how God moves in their hearts.

Remember that you cannot program people to respond positively to your vision or mission. Trust God to “call out the called” as he works in those he has chosen to join the mission. Do not take a “no” answer personally. Communicate your vision clearly and enthusiastically and then wait to see who God brings alongside you.

— Mark Powers

READERS: In September, I will be launching a new online e-classroom featuring 4-week basic training courses for worship leaders!  Stay tuned for more information about WORSHIPWISE.com.  Keep looking here for info and class registration.

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Leading Through Change: Steps 1&2 – Find God’s Vision/Give it Form

Signs of Change They said to me, “Those who survived the exile

and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.

The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

Nehemiah 1:1–3, NIV

We dream of doing great things for God. But dreams only become reality through a persistent commitment to a process that produces results. Without a plan that yields results, our greatest dreams remain unrealized. Artistic people seem to have no shortage of dreams. But artistic people sometimes struggle to develop and follow a strategic plan. Creating an artistic masterpiece requires a disciplined approach. Here is the process you can follow to create a missional masterpiece.

Step One: Seek God and HIS Vision

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.

For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.

Nehemiah 1:4 NIV

God is at work restoring his own masterpiece in this world. He wants to inspire you to join him in his mission. The word “inspiration” literally means “breathed into.” From within, the Holy Spirit calls us and empowers us for the mission. Remember, the statistics show us that we can’t change ourselves. Only a God-given vision has a chance of success. Only God can lead you through change to action. Surrender your will to him—seek him, find him and follow him.

Nehemiah got alone with God, crying out for God to give him a vision. First, he allowed the problem at hand to become personal to him. He became so convicted that he mourned and wept. Then he sought God’s solution through prayer and fasting. We must seek the vision God has for us with every fiber of our being.

Step two: Accept the vision and define its form

Then I prayed to the God of heaven . . . “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight,

let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

Nehemiah 2:4, NIV

Artists understand form. A work of art is expressed in form, whether it is dance, visual art, sculpture, or any other artistic medium. In music, form is the overarching pattern through which melodies, harmonies, and rhythms are stated and developed. So, too, a missional vision needs form to be stated and developed.

When the hand of God rests on you, he will give you a vision. Nehemiah saw the need, received God’s vision, and set out to develop a form. Nehemiah’s vision to restore his heritage took on the form of rebuilding Jerusalem. He visited Jerusalem, personally surveyed the destruction, and then formed a mental picture and a verbal description of a rebuilt city. Put your vision in written form.

Next week, join me as we look at the next two steps for leading through change! I’ll see you here.  — Mark Powers



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.


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