In a recent conversation with a friend, she explained how her church is currently reworking and renewing their mission statement. The excitement and optimism in her voice was almost contagious. It was a chance to call the community together around a purpose, to unite the hearts of God’s people around a well-defined mantra, a call.
The brightest minds, the fervent prayers, the careful search for the right words—all were collaborating around the creation of their church’s mission statement.
So many of our churches have defined themselves by these things called vision and mission statements. I don’t get it. It’s not just that after reading the books and sitting through the seminars, I still can’t articulate the difference between the two. (Sure, I could come up with a dictionary definition for each, but at the end of the day isn’t the Church’s mission to live out Christ’s vision of God’s Kingdom? And isn’t Christ’s vision of church to incarnate the mission of God?)
What I really don’t get is how a community that exists in the name of the Infinite God could reduce the intricacies and nuances of its life to a statement, a paragraph or a collection of propositions.
Is it possible that our churches aren’t meant to have mission statements, but rather to be statements of mission?
It may sound like petty semantics, but I think it’s crucial ecclesiology/missiology/Christology. When we give narrow, restrictive definitions to who we are and what we are about, are we not insulating ourselves from even greater future potential? Hypothetically, if we say that we’re about these three things, does that give us justification to abdicate the other three thousand things that are equally important parts of the Church’s mission?
Rather than pouring our best resources into mission statements, what if we as churches became hubs of missional life and learning? What if rather than preaching through mission statements and publishing them on banners, we led conversations on the Book of Acts, John 17, The Lord’s Prayer and the Exodus?
If God uses 66 books full of narrative, poems, songs, sermons and imperatives to communicate the fullness of His mission, can we really do it in a few pithy sentences?
Sure, it can be a good thing for a community to articulate a summary of their focused mission in a statement and then seek to live that out. But how much more freedom and possibility is there when our communities engage in the on-going dialogue of what it means to be the people of mission.
Can a statement capture the full breadth of God’s mission in, through and for His Church—your church? I’m cynical that it can, but would love to hear about your experience and perspective.