Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission for Christ

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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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Jesus’ Secret for Leading Through Change

Jesus5 Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.

I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me. You’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matthew 11:28–30, The Message

Dictionary.com defines change as: “1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of something different from what it is, or from what it would be if left alone; 2. to transform or convert.”

An unknown writer said: “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is that they must change if they are to get better.”

Socrates said: “Let him who would change the world first change himself.”

The Bible talks about change, too. Most Scriptures using the word “change” are assurances that God’s nature will remain unchanged throughout eternity. The remaining Scriptures mentioning change are commands to change our lives to align with God. Though God’s nature never changes, the world he created is ever-changing. Change is a naturally occurring result of a dynamic universe made by a creative God. So we must learn to lead through change because change is always going to be a part of life.

The Scripture above is the secret to unlock Jesus’ plan for leading through change: God is the real leader, and we are following him.

Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their book, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda, wrote: “The key to spiritual leadership is for leaders to understand God’s will for them and their organizations. They then move people away from their own agendas and on to God’s.”

The Scripture in Matthew 11 tells us to “walk, work, and watch” in God, so we will “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” A leader must stay so close to God that we hear his whisper and walk in his shadow. There is no guarantee that this level of trust and obedience will bring success in worldly terms. Jesus lived like this, and it took him to the cross. Yet we trust in the power of the resurrection regardless of the sacrifice it takes to get there.

GO walk every step with God, and be the leader HE has called you and gifted you to be!  — Mark Powers


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A Summer Meditation for Worship Leaders: “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed”

cross01 If you desire to be a leader of disciples, you must beware. “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7, NIV) The biggest challenge we face as leaders is the mastery of our private self. What am I when no one is looking?

Alas, and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?

Was it for crimes that I had done, he groaned upon the tree?

Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree!

I shudder to think of the whip on Jesus’ back. I do not want to imagine the cat-of-nine-tails bruising and cutting him for me. Yet I persist in my sin, heaping pain on him. Are you too weak to embrace the pain of rejecting secret sin when he took the whip and nails for you? By his stripes we are healed. They are his gift to you. Allow the image of his stripes to overpower private sin. That is your gift to him. Our choice is to either be healed or hold the whip.

Well might the sun in darkness hide, and shut His glories in,

When Christ the mighty Maker died for man, the creature’s sin.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe

Here, Lord, I give myself away, ‘Tis all that I can do.

Watts, “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed,” Public Domain.

— Mark Powers


Missions 101: Our Missional Message – Jesus is the Only Way to God!

Jesus5 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,

a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him

who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9, NIV

A 2012 study by LifeWay Research asked Protestant pastors and church members to respond to the statement: “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.” The alarming statistic is that 12 percent of Protestant pastors actually agreed with the statement. This means that more than 1 in 10 of the responding pastors does not believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. Statistics for adults who attend Protestant churches are far more alarming. A startling 26 percent agreed with the statement. That’s more than 1 in 4 Protestant church members polled who don’t believe Jesus is the only way to God.5

The Scriptures call Christians to be a distinctive people. But many Christians today want to look and act like the world to increase our acceptance by the world. Distinctiveness is not something we seem to value as Christians these days. Let’s consider this issue in two parts.

First, the message of the gospel calls Christians to a distinctive belief. Without a distinct message, it is almost impossible for the church to call unbelievers into relationship with God. When we believe that other religions lead to eternal life, the message of Christ and the call to God’s mission of reconciliation go out the window. Any talk-show host or positive-thinking guru can piece together a message from world religions that makes us feel good. American society tells us, “Co-exist! Live, and let live. Lifestyles are in, religion is out. Everybody has a right to embrace their own belief system. There is no right and wrong as long as you don’t hurt someone or their things.”

But God calls his people to boldly proclaim Christ as God’s singular means of reconciliation. Will we listen to our God or to our world?

Jesus said himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). Mohammed specifically says in the Koran that Jesus is not God. Jewish faith says that the Son of God, the Messiah, has not yet come. Buddhism says that there is no God. Hinduism says there are many gods. These religions are mutually exclusive. You can’t get around that fact. We must offer the world the only thing that will make a difference. Offer them the real truth of God. God designed us to be incomplete without him. He completes us for eternal life exclusively through his only son Jesus. There is no other way to God.

Second, the message of the gospel calls Christians to a distinctive lifestyle. Without a distinctive lifestyle, it is almost impossible for the church to call unbelievers to relationship with God. If our behavior is no different from those around us, how can we tell them that Christ will make a difference in their lives? As discussed previously in this blog, God expects his followers to consistently exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If these qualities do not signify our lives, how can we be significant in pointing others to God? Our distinctive lifestyle must be a bright beacon to our neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And our lives must point to Jesus – the only way to God!  — Mark Powers

Roach, “Pastors Uphold Christian Exclusivity Poll Finds,” http://www.lifeway.com.

BLOG READERS… please join me in this May-June class online at Missional University:

>>Click here for an engaging video about my online class “Growing Worshiping Disciples on Mission”: https://vimeo.com/161573899

>>Get info and register here for this class BY APRIL 18: http://missional.university/index.php/swl



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Missional Thinking 101 for Worshipers: Our Missional Eyes

cross sun full      For God so loved the world

that He gave His only begotten Son.

John 3:16a, KJV

If God were to walk the streets of our cities and towns, what would be his perspective? God would walk our streets with a broken heart looking into each face that did not know him. Relationship with people is the reason God created the earth and placed us on this planet. And God made relationship possible by sending Jesus to die for our sin and conquer spiritual death forever.

So if God walked our streets knowing that he has already made every provision for relationship, his heart would break for those who remain separated from him. Those outside of relationship with God in Christ are dead people walking—fully alive physically, yet dead spiritually. And his heart breaks for each one. Our missional eyes are opened when we understand that our friends, neighbors, and co-workers are spiritually dead without Christ. Can you see them? Will you look? Our hearts, too, must break for them.

In the past 20 years, the evangelical community began to look at the world differently. Focus shifted to evangelizing people groups rather than nations. The Basic Training for Mission Teams manual tells us: “Of the thousands of people groups worldwide, about 4,992 people groups live in the Last Frontier—the part of the world with little or no access to the gospel. That translates to 1.6 billion people who currently have virtually no chance of hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.”2

As we can readily see, God is on mission to win both those nearby and those in remote areas of the world. He is calling us to join him in all those places. When Isaiah saw God and heard his call, he replied: “Here am I, send me.” How will YOU reply?

Mark Powers

2. Rankin and Tadlock, Basic Training for Mission Teams, 51.

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Worship Team Meditation: “All Creatures of Our God and King”

 Dad-childAll creatures of our God and King,

Lift up your voice and with us sing

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou burning sun with golden beam,

Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise him! Alleluia!

God has set this world in order. It runs like clockwork in infinite detail with amazing precision. The order of this world testifies to a mastermind of infinite proportions. Yet God’s attention to detail extends to the smallest thing. As mankind lives and moves within this infinitely organized world, we organize our own lives as we reflect God’s creativity and resourcefulness. We call it culture. And when the cultural organization of our lives is in tune with God, we live in harmony as his creation. But when we assume the role of demi-god and force a foreign culture onto a people, we move outside of God’s graceful order. Skirmishes begin to disrupt the grace relationship in which God calls us to live. The joy of singing “Alleluia” is lost when we are under attack from those who should bring God’s grace. War breaks out in our soul, in our relationships, and in our churches. The term “worship war” is an oxymoron. There can be no war in worship when worship belongs solely to God.

And all ye men of tender heart,

Forgiving others, take your part,

O sing ye! Alleluia!

Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,

Praise God and on Him cast your care!

O praise him! Alleluia!

How can we rediscover the joy of “Alleluia” when the song of heartfelt worship has been drowned out by a worship war? Hearts may once again become tender through praising God and casting our cares on him. Our souls cry out to God in the unique language of our hearts. In those heart languages we embrace the cross and the love given there. May this act of worship bring you to forgive those who have forced their culture on you. Then may you rise in “humbleness” and worship our God with a fresh spirit, free from the hurts of the past. “O praise him. Alleluia!”

Let all things their Creator bless,

And worship him in humbleness,

O praise him! Alleluia!

Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,

And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

O praise him! O praise him!

                      Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

                  — Mark Powers

Francis of Assisi, paraphrased by William Draper and Thomas Ken, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” Public Domain.

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How God Grows His Children: Step Four

Dad-child“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8, NASB

Parents hope and pray that their teenagers will remain pure. A commitment to purity is crucial to every child of God. To resist the temptations of the world, we must trust implicitly that God is the only source for our every need. This trust level requires that we see God at work in every aspect of life. We find him there at every step. Our all-knowing Father is never surprised by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Knowing this we begin to take life’s challenges in stride—his stride.

But purification is ongoing. Because the world is a battlefield between Satan and God, life is a battle between godliness and godlessness. Sanctification requires hand-to-hand combat with our sin. No doubt, God is our comforting Father throughout the daily battles. But he is also a strong Father who expects obedience. Being superficially religious won’t cut it, no matter how impressive we seem. He wants to purify us so we see him clearly in every moment of every day. If we’re going to join God on mission, it’s crucial to see clearly where he is at work. Purity, then, is a single-minded focus on seeing God and remaining untainted by the filth we see around us.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9, NASB

When God fills his disciples with mercy and purity, inner peace moves in. Spiritually mature disciples who have found God’s calling for their lives possess that peace. The Jewish people bestow the hope of peace on others with the blessing shalom. Shalom is a one-word prayer for the restoration of the world to God’s design. A mature disciple possesses the personal peace of knowing God’s design and then partnering with him to restore that design to the world.

Peacemakers bring calm to a raging world. But they are not naïve. Soon after his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sent his disciples out into the world. “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves,” he told them in Matthew 10:16 (HCSB). Peacemaking requires remarkable inner strength. Every attitude Jesus has presented in the discipleship process to this point will be required of a peacemaker on mission. Peacemakers are spiritual adults capable of raising spiritual children in God’s family. They have died to self and experienced brokenness and mourning. The kingdom of heaven has become theirs by accepting Christ’s death in their place. They receive God’s comfort and become gentle in the experience. A peacemaker is filled every day by a right relationship with God. Mercy and purity grow out of a peacemaker’s life wherever they join God on mission.

A world at war with God cries out for peacemakers. God sends them on mission to birth people in Christ and raise them as disciples. They are acclaimed as sons of God, his grown children. Ah, the pinnacle of discipleship is attained. The mature disciple can now relax and enjoy the blessings, right? Wrong! Keep reading.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10–12, NASB

Just a short while after presenting the Beatitudes, Jesus prayed to his Father, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, KJV). Ever since the fall of man into sin, God has chosen to suspend his perfect will on earth so we might have the privilege of choosing him. God’s perfect will is done in heaven, and he allows Satan to reign in hell. Earth is their battleground. The disciple lives on the battleground, and the world is at war. A disciple on mission must understand this truth.

The world hates godliness even as it hungers for God. Paul said to the citizens of Philippi, “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Phil. 3:18–19, NIV). Earthly life is torn apart by this conflict.

Look at the modern media for proof. They exalt celebrities as gods of society, and we keep buying it. Then we tear those celebrities down at the first sign of human frailty, only to lift them up again when we crave more entertainment. During Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem the crowds shouted, “Hosanna,” as he arrived, then cried, “Crucify him,” five days later. As Christ-followers, the world will do that to us, too. The world yearns to possess what God has given us. But upon hearing what it will cost, they turn back to their pursuit of pleasure. Their lives are consumed with satisfying the lower instincts rather than lifting hearts and minds to God. The very ones who cry for our help turn against us.

When the world is against us, the Father’s love endures. The kingdom of heaven is ours. Hallelujah! The forces of evil may take every earthly thing we own. They may even come for our lives. But they cannot steal our Father’s ultimate gift. The souls of those who are in Christ will live forever with God. We are his children, and he is our Father. He has grown us to maturity, so now we move out with him to share the relationship with others. The discipleship process goes full circle!   — Mark Powers