It has long been my belief that a clear, concise mission statement is essential for organizational success. For churches, the mission does not need to be discerned per se because it has been given to us by Jesus himself. The mission of every church is at its core the Great Commission given to us by Christ. Churches can restate the mission for their particular context, but the mission must encapsulate our call to make disciples, bringing people to Christ and helping people to become increasingly like Christ.
This brings us to a difficult reality check. Because if it’s true that the mission of every church is at its core to make disciples, then we must ask ourselves why so many churches have failed not only to make disciples of Jesus Christ, but to drift far, far away from the mission given to us by Jesus Christ.
The answer is nuanced, and like you I can think of a myriad of contributing factors. But for purposes of this post, we’ll consider two overarching reasons. If either of these brings a sense of conviction to you, I encourage you to pray about it, be open to what the Holy Spirit might speak to you, and discuss it with other leaders.
Our Tendency to Settle.
After God created Adam and Eve, He instructed them to, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). More than a thousand years later, after flooding the earth, “God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’” (Gen. 9:1). Yet just a few generations after Noah, we read in Genesis 11:1 that, “As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.” And you know the rest of the story – after the people “settled” in Shinar, they began construction of the Tower of Babel, a misguided construction project if ever there was one.
The problem with settling is that it runs contrary to movement and multiplication. It’s true in our individual lives, and it’s true in our churches. In both cases, when we settle for what is familiar or comfortable, we invariably move our focus off of Christ and other people, and onto ourselves. We have no effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission because we fail to heed the Great Commandment. Slowly and steadily, we become increasingly myopic, to the point where vision evaporates and mission is etched not on our hearts, but on an overlooked placard.
I do not believe it is possible to be fully engaged in mission while settling for what is familiar or comfortable. Rather we are to, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
Our Tendency to Wander.
In my book, Faith-Based: A Biblical, Practical Guide to Strategic Planning in the Church, I wrote that, “It ought to be easy to craft a mission statement that encapsulates the Great Commission, but there are many pastors and church leaders who are consumed with developing a mission statement that is somehow more captivating, unique, cutting edge, than the mission Christ gave us. The result is that too many churches have mission statements that relegate the Great Commission to an afterthought … The demands on pastors, staff members, and lay leaders to do this and try that are never ending. Hardly a day passes without being exposed to some new program, idea, or opportunity. But the risk of constantly trying new things, or forever searching for the next big thing, is that we forget why we exist as a church.”
If settling leads to myopia, wandering leads to blurriness!
I encourage you to safeguard the mission Christ has given to you, and your church. And as you seek to fulfill the mission, I encourage you to be adventurous, creative, bold, humble, and prayerful – for the sake of the mission and the cause of Christ.