I’ve never been a huge fan of church mission statements. I remember a statement being posted on the wall of one church I pastored, but could never remember what it said as the statement itself was, like many of mine, long and convoluted. I wasn’t alone as no one else seemed to remember it either. Some churches have no written statements at all, and others have them but may as well not. Why do churches have mission statements? And has the church not done well over the majority of its 2,000 plus year history without them? Are they not just a result of trying to impose contemporary ‘organizational theory’ on the church? Shouldn’t we just look to the future with prayers and the Bible and leave the mission statements to the big corporations?
First, a written statement of mission is a tool for decision making. Without it any organization, including a church, can fall prey to the temptation to make decisions based on either the dominant preference (“we would like this”) or the dominant personality (“he/she wants this”). A written statement helps ensure that it is the understood purpose of the church which dominates the decision making rather than the dominant preferences or personalities.
Second, while the Church seems to have done well over its history, it is by the grace of God and despite many missteps. Had the purpose of the Church been dominant and well understood the history of the church, and indeed therefore the history of the world, may have been much different. What opportunities have been missed because we have followed preferences and personalities down foolish paths!
Ok, but isn’t this just organizational theory dumped on the church? Borrowing from the good folks at Commitment Ministries , a good statement will have three components:
Mission. This is the ultimate goal, the thing we are to achieve. You can think of it as the destination at the end of the journey. We don’t get to choose it, we discover it from the Bible. It should answer the question: “what does God want to achieve through His church?”
Vision. This is the thing we need to do next in order to get closer to achieving our mission. You can think of it as the next hill we need to get over. Again we don’t get to pick it, it is rather a process of seeking what God is specifically calling us to at this time.
Values. These are the non-negotiable things that guide us. You can think of it as the road which we should stay on if we are hoping to reach our destination. We might think of non-negotiables like “we value the Bible as the Word of God.”
While these three things may look alot like ‘organisational theory’ applied to the church, we quickly realise how much these are dependant on prayer, the Bible and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
But shouldn’t we be leaving mission statements to the big corporations? It was Steve Jobs of Apple who famously wooed an exec from Pepsi with: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Apple has changed much in the world (I’m typing on an Apple product right now!), but God is looking to change far more than Apple ever could. Apple is an exciting company, but its mission statement is downright boring compared to that of any church that has done its homework. It is too long and convoluted to include here. We might ask “do you want to sell electro-gadgets the rest of your life, or do you want to participate with God in changing the world?” If it is important for a company like Apple to be organized in accomplishing its purposes, how much moreso for the church to be intentional and organized in our participation with God in accomplishing His.
At Calvary Baptist we have much to celebrate as we celebrate our 127th anniversary. But as we look back with gratitude we also have much to look forward to as we discover His call and organize around His mission.