by Jason Aycock
Our church has a mission statement. Do you know what it is?
“We are a church that makes disciples – across the street and around the world.”
I don’t like church mission statements. To be honest I don’t like mission statements for businesses either, but that’s another topic. Yet here I am writing a post about our church’s mission – and I’m going to encourage you to take it to heart. I know this sounds contradictory so I ask that you hear me out.
What I don’t like About Mission Statements
Usually I think mission statements are useless. The popular wisdom on mission statements says that without one an organization will lose focus on what it is about, what it exists to do, why it has a purpose. With this loss of focus comes overextension; the organization tries to do too much or be too many things to too many different people. And with overextension comes failure. In order to remedy this problem businesses began creating mission statements that would be used to guide them in every major (and many minor) decisions they might make, from the creation of new products to the location of stores. If an activity of the business did not somehow fit within the boundary of the mission statement it needed to be discarded.
Over the past few decades many churches have bought into the idea that without a mission statement the church is doomed to follow the path of businesses that perish because they could not clearly articulate their purpose and reason for being.
But here’s the problem, or rather a few of them:
- Nobody Knows
Most people have no idea what their church’s mission statement says. They either don’t care or don’t even know it exists.
- A Modern Problem
As my friend and Offerings pastor Teddy Ray has pointed out in his own blog, the church did just fine – even thrived – without a clearly defined mission statement for just about 2000 years. Maybe having a modern mission statement isn’t the answer to our woes.
- Too Long and Complicated
Most mission statements (in the church or otherwise) are too long to be easily memorized, and are too complicated – filled with buzzwords and gibberish, both of which make them ill-suited to fulfill the task for which they are designed. If you have a good mission statement it should really only be a sentence or two and should be easily memorized by an 8 year old.
- What is the Focus?
If you take a moment to do a web-search of church mission statements you’ll find a lot of examples. Most of them say some really good stuff about who they strive to be, the ministries they believe are important, who they hope to serve, and how “relevant” all of it is. While this is all good stuff, it often falls short of its desired intention because it tries to cover too many important ideas in one broad statement. It has no focus.
- Who Says?
Sometimes trying to cover too much in one statement means the church ends up with ideas from a variety of sources. Some come from Jesus, some from Peter and Paul, some from the pastor, and some from the congregation. This just adds more confusion as people try to discern what is most important, and what is least important.
What I like About Our Mission Statement
- It’s Short
Our mission statement is short and to the point. An 8 year old could memorize it. No buzz words or gibberish. It doesn’t try to cover everything we are about in paragraphs of detail. Instead it addresses everything we are about in one sentence.
- The Mission Christ Gave Us
This is what I like most. Our mission statement takes seriously the mission Christ gave the church through his disciples.
After his death and resurrection Christ appeared to his disciples numerous times. At one such meeting, handed down to us by the author of Matthew, Jesus says to the disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Mat 28:18-20).
At another such encounter just moments before ascending to heaven Jesus told the disciples, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
There it is. “Go and make disciples of all nations…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Our mission encapsulates these words from Christ and identifies who we are and what we do. We are a church that makes disciples – across the street and around the world. It’s that simple. That’s the mission Christ gave us. It’s the mission we yearn to fulfill. It’s been the mission of the church since the beginning.
The question that remains is, “how do we do it?” That is a question I hope we can explore together.