Does your church have a mission statement? If it’s an evangelical church, it probably does.
What does it say? More than likely, it says something to the effect of: “We exist to make disciples” – defined as growing, devoted followers of Jesus. Writing a mission statement is a “slam dunk” because this imperative is so clear from the words of Jesus himself (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:46,47, John 21:21, Acts 1:7,8).
Now we need to back up a bit: What is a mission anyway? The term isn’t actually found in the English Bible translations that I’m familiar with, so we need to turn to the dictionary. My computer offered up three options:
- An important assignment carried out for political, religious, or commercial purposes, typically involving travel.
- The vocation or calling of a religious organization, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith.
- A strongly felt aim, ambition, or calling.
What kinds of words and images do you associate with the word “mission”? Typical answers include “travel, adventure, danger, passion, urgency, rescue, reward, conflict and excitement.”
When I ask: Can you give me examples of people on missions (inside or outside the Bible)? I hear about Jonathan and his armor bearer attacking the Philistines, David going to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Zion, Nehemiah striking out across the desert to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, a lone brave soldier “taking out” an enemy machine-gun nest, military units capturing an important leader, the British navy’s determination to “Sink the Bismarck,” American soldiers determined to “Remember the Alamo,” Mission Impossible teams exposing and deposing cruel dictators, etc.
Passion, danger, urgency, excitement, conflict, adventure: they’re all present when somebody’s “on mission.”
Here’s my next question: How do people feel when they accomplish their mission? (Excited, elated, pumped, stoked, right?)
Here’s my next question: How do people feel when they fail to accomplish their mission? (Disappointed, dejected, discouraged, angry, dissatisfied, etc., right?)
Getting back to church, the next question is, Do you enjoy – are you happy with – your church?
Most people say “Oh yes, I really enjoy my church. I love it.”
The next question is review: What did you say your church’s mission was? The answer, repeated with some impatience now, is, “Making disciples.”
So when did you last make a disciple, a follower of Jesus, out of the intended ‘raw material’ of lost, non-Christian people?
The answer is often, and I do mean often, a softly spoken “About five years ago, actually.”
This is where we use some silence to let that sink in.
We say that we’re on mission and that our mission is making disciples. We admit that we’re not making any but we’re perfectly happy with our church anyway.
There’s something wrong with this picture, isn’t there?
Either the church has some other mission that it gets excited about – and I’m not even going to start down that road right now – or it just doesn’t have a mission at all.
I’m not suggesting that you should hate your church; I think you should love your church.
But if it’s not on a mission – and I mean the God-given mission of making devoted followers of Jesus out of the raw material of lost people – then you should be deeply grieved and profoundly willing to shake things up until your church is on, or back on, mission.
How would your church answer the ten questions?