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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How to start FULL CIRCLE DISCIPLE GROUPS – Part 1: Thinking Ahead.

multi-ethnic-laughsDo you feel God’s call to start a full circle group for your worship leaders?

First, you need to pray with all your might. Pray that God will lead you to the worship leaders on your team who most need to be brought into this group. Remember that we are “calling out the called,” not just pressing people into service. If someone resists being a part of the group, even if you feel strongly that they should join, don’t force the issue. Pray that God will call out those he has called and move in their spirits to enlist willingly. Ask God to equip you with the skill to lead a group that will grow mature disciples. And pray for courage to find personal openness and transparency in group relationships yourself. This is a challenge for worship leaders because we are hesitant to be vulnerable to church members.

Pray, too, that God will grow each participant to start a full circle group after successfully participating in the original group. Replication of groups at least annually is an important key to making disciples who make disciples. Allowing a single group to meet for a year without replication will invite the group to turn inward. Be sure this plan for replication is clearly understood by all leaders and participants.  As you recruit members of your group, be clear to explain that, after one semester, each member should be ready to start their own group!

Throughout the sessions, it is crucial that your group develop and perform a mission project to your community. The greatest temptation for any discipleship group is self-centeredness. It will be easy to give in to our sinful nature and focus only on your own needs within the group. But full circle groups must develop worshiping disciples on mission. If our intent becomes focused on meeting our own needs, we will have simply recast idolatry in the same old drama with a new script. Find a project together and go on mission. Living on mission with God will give your group the context to grow in discipleship. Remember, Jesus sent his disciples on mission very soon after he called them. Hear his mandate to your group to be on mission from the start as you grow in relational discipleship.

If you decide to lead your worship ministry to establish full circle groups, start personally enlisting spiritually mature group leaders immediately as you begin missional moments in rehearsals. It is very important to recruit these leaders face-to-face rather than by phone or e-mail.

Once your leaders are recruited, immediately saturate the whole worship team with promotion of the full circle groups. This will build on the momentum from the retreat and the weekly teaching in rehearsals. At that time, you can equip your leaders to recruit group members personally, also face-to-face. This will greatly strengthen the relational element of the groups since they will be recruited relationally.

Full circle groups for worship leaders may meet during a weekly Bible teaching hour such as Sunday morning or evening or another night, an extra hour before rehearsal, or for breakfast or lunch meetings. Locations might include church, home, office, school, or a public meeting room. Be creative and think outside the box. Being intentionally cross-generational is a wonderful way to provide mentoring and networking for people in different life-stage and social groups. Do your best to find people from many generations and lifestyles to bring together in your groups to learn from each other.

Full circle groups foster relationships while participants engage in discussion, personal transparency, application, and mission action. They also cultivate ongoing transformation and accountability as the group achieves deeper levels of relationship.

In my next post, I will share exactly how to organize and lead a Full Circle Discipleship Group. See you back here then! 

— Mark Powers


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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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Here’s A Church You Can Emulate!

XmsfstPhotos04 058Everybody’s looking for a successful church to emulate. Large, small, and in between, we all are watching to see who’s making a splash so we can borrow a few ideas from them. With that in mind, I have a church to commend to you. No, it’s not the hottest church down the street. It’s a New Testament church – the church at Antioch.

The account of the Antioch church is found in Acts 11:19–30 and 13:1–3. The writer of Acts wrote that followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch (11:26). Though this church was only a year or two old at the time of the writing of Acts, it is regarded as one of the most influential churches in the New Testament. What are the characteristics exhibited in their behavior that show spiritual maturity?

First, in worship, they knew how to allow God’s Spirit to create a worship vortex among them. According to Acts 13:2–3 (HCSB): “As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.’ Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.”

Second, in discipleship, they knew how to live sacrificially. According to Acts 11:29 (HCSB): “So each of the disciples, according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea.”

And third, they knew how to go on mission, both in their community and to other people groups. According to Acts 11:24 (HCSB): “Large numbers of people were added to the Lord” as the church was on mission to its community.

Do the characteristics of the Antioch church sound familiar? They are the circle of missional living: worship-discipleship-mission. The fact that they reflected this proves that Paul and Barnabas taught an intentional process of transformational discipleship. Paul and Barnabas were growing worshiping disciples on mission in Antioch.

How about you? Yes, I know that most of my readers are worship pastors or lay worship leaders. So does that exempt you from growing disciple makers yourself? You know better, don’t you? Jesus gave the Great Commission to all of us, you included! His call to each of us is to grow disciples who make disciples and who act/think/pray as missionaries 24/7. That’s what the Antioch church was all about and their results show it. What kind of results do you have to show?  — Mark Powers

NOTE: Do you and your worship team need practical, accessible training available 24/7? http://www.WorshipWise.com offers an array of online courses to meet immediate needs for only $99 per course.  January session enrollment begins December 26. Join us!  MP

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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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The One-Day Missional Life Retreat for Your Worship Team

GFC iconYour first step to introduce your worship team to missional thinking can be a One-Day Missional Life Retreat in the context of a special rehearsal retreat. We cannot expect them to grow into deeper discipleship and more active missions until they have developed the missional mindset.

During this retreat, you will rehearse and prepare music for upcoming corporate worship while you are introducing basic missional life concepts. The best time of year for this retreat to occur is in either early January or just after Labor Day. An alternative could be a few weeks after Easter, but our hectic spring schedules make this alternative the third choice. The retreat could be scheduled on a Saturday morning, Sunday afternoon, or week night. It can be effective if held in your own rehearsal space, though you might want to consider an offsite retreat.

Here is the outline for a One-Day Missional Life retreat:

  • Enjoy fellowship time with light snacks, 30 minutes before official start time.
  • Warm up and rehearse worship songs for the upcoming Sunday.
  • Present videos, testimonies and statistics introducing the decline of Christian affiliation in our country (Search this site for updated stats: http://www.pewforum.org/data/.) Then present stories of needs in your own community: spiritual darkness, illiteracy, teen pregnancy, crime, illicit drug use, etc. Consider inviting someone from the police or sheriff ’s department, a school administrator, or a social worker to share local stories of need. Ask your worship team to share with each other the needs and challenges they see in your community with the person on their right.
  • Explain the concept of “Going Full Circle” and how our worship must move us to deeper discipleship and active missions. Lead a time of prayer and sing a song for God to open our eyes to see our world as he sees it.
  • Rehearse another song or two for future worship services. Choosing songs to learn and rehearse that reflect our call to missional living will strengthen the impact of the event.
  • Ask your team to discuss these questions with the person on their left:
    Where in the Bible does it say that we will win the world by getting people into church? What does it say?
  • Teach them the five-fingered-approach-to-handing-someone-the-gospel. (Go here to see my previous blog on this approach: http://wp.me/p4ybbl-7W.  Ask them to share ideas with the whole group about how this approach could be applied in your community by your worship team.
  • Have a time of prayer led by those previously recruited to pray on the team’s behalf.
  • Rehearse one or more upcoming songs for future worship services.
  • Present videos of missional concepts. Some sources for missional videos that can be bought and downloaded are: http://www.ignitermedia.com; http://www.worshiphousemedia.com; http://www.sermonspice.com. (Note: You may use videos from YouTube or Vimeo or other web-sharing sites only if you are live-streaming the video from the Internet, according to current U.S. copyright laws.) Ask for quick first-impression responses to these videos from your worship team.
  • The retreat should continue in this pattern, alternating rehearsal of upcoming worship songs, with teaching of basic missional concepts from this blog or my book “Going Full Circle” (https://wipfandstock.com/going-full-circle.html) and other resources, followed by guided discussion.
  • Be sure to invite your lead pastor to come in and say a closing word of support and encouragement to the team for their vision. Close the retreat with a celebrative ending and commitment to continue to the next step. Announce step two, Missional Moments in Weekly Rehearsals, to begin in the next rehearsal.  I will present this plan next week right here.

Celebrate this first step into full-circle living in your worship ministry!  Bravo for your leadership to take your team to the next level and grow “worshiping disciples on mission”.  — Mark Powers

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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


—> Enroll now for practical, affordable, interactive online classes at http://www.WorshipWise.com.  Only $99 for each 4-week class! September session enrollment closes this Wednesday, September 7 at midnight.  Enroll now before you miss this session. The clock is ticking.