This series is meant to share some ideas of what makes a church healthy. A great deal of work has been done in this area and many are experts in this field. Certain ministries and organizations are even built with this concept at the forefront of their purpose. My intention is not to compete with those individuals or ministries; rather, I am seeking to add another voice to the conversation, and to share a few practical ideas in the process.
With that said, last week I posted on the idea of developing a vision as individuals. This week, I am going to shift to the idea of mission. As I mentioned in last week’s post, the two are related, but I make a distinction between them. Some might question why we should begin with the idea of an individual’s statement(s) if seeking to understand the church and the question is a fair one. The answer is that the church is made up of individuals! So, if individuals are becoming healthy (and know their mission and purpose) then the church is more likely to become healthy as well.
As a recap, let me restate my vision statement with which I concluded last week’s blog. My vision is “To be the man God has called me to be.” This statement is based upon two verses in Ephesians. Ephesians 4.1 challenges me to walk in a manner worthy of my calling. And Ephesians 5.1 is a reminder that I am to be an imitator of God.
Two quick points on these verses. First, I understand completely that both verses were written to the church and not the individual. This is an important point. It is the church who is to imitate God and the church which is to live worthily. However, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, as a part of the church, what is true for the church as a whole must be true of me as one part of that whole. Thus, if I can fulfill my part, then I can then lead the whole to do better at fulfilling our part. And this idea leads me to admit that…
…I do not fulfill my part. Like any Christian, any human really, I sin…constantly…daily. And that is why the vision is to be (or become) the man God has called me to be. Fulfillment of this vision will take place in the future, and in this case, actually I die. I will never fully satisfy my vision on this side of eternity, but that does not mean that I cannot make it my aim. Like Paul, I can strive for the goal God has given me knowing that one day that goal will be achieved, even though its achievement will be God’s doing, not mine (the verb in Eph 5.1 is passive meaning it is God that allows me to become an imitator).
So what is my part. Well, if I have a purpose, then I should live with that purpose in mind. Although I may not achieve my true vision that does not mean that I cannot take steps towards that end. But if I am to make progress I need to have objectives to help me move in that direction. These objectives (or goals) are still big picture for me, and make up my mission. I am an advocate of shorter mission statements (like shorter vision statements) to aid in memorization. However, in my case, mine is longer, but is built on three principles which are constantly in my mind – my Steps (the 4L’s of Discipleship – Learn, Live, Love, Lead), my Spirit-given gifts (knowledge, teaching, and encouragement), and my life verses (OT – Psalm 73.25-26; NT – Colossians 1.28-29, with an extra two verses which have long-inspired me). Therefore, even if my may misquote the actual statement, the premise is ingrained in me. My Mission Statement is as follows:
I will love my Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ, submit to His authority in my life, and rely on His power to use my God-given abilities to serve others – beginning with my family (Philippians 2.3-4). I will seek to grow in my knowledge and understanding of God’s truths and His will for my life. I will trust in His provision (Ps 73.25-26). I will externalize my faith by reaching out to others, teaching them God’s truths, and encouraging others to grow in their relationship with Christ, so they may disciple others as well (Col 1.28-29).
Jesus gives us the Great Commandment in Mark 12.30-31. That commandment is effectively my first sentence. He also gives us the Great Commission which is my last sentence. If I do my part, as imperfect as I may be and as imperfectly as I may do them, I will accomplish the rest of my mission as well. (The two items mentioned here are truly a part of every Christian’s mission!) If I accomplish my mission, then I will have achieved my ultimate goal of becoming the man God desires me to be. However, knowing that I will fall at times, I include the word Savior in my first sentence as a reminder that He is not only to be my Lord, and not has He saved me, but I continually need Him to intercede for me.
So, where do we go from here. Well, first, I recommend that you take time to put some ideas on paper related to your mission. In last week’s post, I gave some ideas on how to begin to craft a Vision Statement. Once you have your goal in mind, you simply begin to work backwards and ask yourself (or others), “How can I achieve this vision?” That is, “What must I do to get where I need to get?”
As with the Vision Statement, your Mission Statement should be bound to Scripture. Why? Because our purpose is really from God and thus we can find our how to identify and fulfill our purpose in His Word. One other aspect of your mission is the involvement of others. God did not create us to live in isolation. Therefore, while part of your mission may be self-focused, none of it should be self-centered. If you compare mine, the bulk of what is written is about others and where I turn the focus on myself, it is about loving God and others, about learning God’s will (which involves serving others), and trusting in God’s provision (so I am not hoarding for myself, but am willing to give to others). Like last week’s work on the Vision Statement, the process to craft a quality statement takes time, but once you have it in place, it rarely changes. (My mission statement has changed by only a couple of words over the past 15-16 years.)
So, as I mentioned last week, simply take some time to start. The process may feel cumbersome, but it really isn’t – at least, it isn’t if you do just a little at a time. And, again, the goal of this is to work towards finding/having/being a healthy church. By taking the time to develop a statement such as what I have shared above, you will be better equipped to not only know how you might best serve a church, but also know which church is best for you to serve. That last idea will be the focus of next week’s article as we begin to turn towards focusing on the church itself.