It’s that time of year again. At least here in the Midwest, it’s pothole season.
And for drivers, potholes mean front end alignments.
Churches need periodic realignment as well. They just naturally get all bent out of shape.
Among other problems, they tend to forget what their mission was. Missional realignment is often needed to get them back on track.
Most churches nowadays have something they call a mission statement, though very few of them would ever be accused of looking like they’re actually on a mission.
A mission is usually undertaken with a level of urgency and often involves passion (or compassion), danger, hazardous travel, great focus and concentration, heroic effort, conflict, self-sacrifice, a limited window of time for completion and sometimes even violence. Such as:
- A Mission Impossible mission to unseat a tyrannical dictator without anyone knowing who did it (I grew up watching the television show, long before the movies), or
- A mission to “neutralize” an enemy machine-gun nest which is chewing up your military unit, or
- A mission to rescue hostages held in a foreign, unfriendly nation.
As evangelicals we have come to a clear consensus on the subject of the church’s mission. It’s making disciples, as in Matthew 28:18-20. “Making disciples” (as defined by the context of this command in the New Testament), means employing our wonderful, Spirit-empowered, Good News message about Christ, to turn the “raw material” of lost people into growing followers of Jesus. Making a disciple involves winning this unbeliever to faith in Christ, building him up in the faith and equipping him so he can become part of the same wonderful process.
The term isn’t in the Bible but we usually call this the Great Commission – the mission which unites us all as Jesus’ followers.
I’ve been using this blog to give pastors and churches a church revitalization playbook. After exploring the exciting possibility of church revitalization (click here for this post) I shared the three initial, scripted plays that I believe most revitalization efforts should begin with:
- First, you must help your people to face the true condition of their church (click here for this post)
- Second, you must help your congregation to take responsibility for the condition of their church (click here to read this post).
- Third, as a revitalization pastor, you must lead your people to begin praying for revitalization (click here for this post).
Since week five of the series, I’ve been describing additional plays which you may feel led to pull out of your playbook and employ in your situation.
This week’s play is simple – sort of a “give the ball to the halfback and run it up the middle” kind of thing – Give your church a missional re-alignment. Help a church which is “off mission” get back “on mission.”
Chances are, getting off-mission was easy. Our selfish hearts (Isaiah 53:5) just naturally turn us inward. The needs of new believers in our churches (which become greater with every generation) suck up all our time and energy. Troubles, trials and squabbles help us forget our God-given mission. As institutions, our congregations naturally (there’s that word again) tend to reward and platform those who serve the institution internally, not externally.
Besides all that, evangelism, especially the personal variety, is the hardest part of the Christian life: we’d rather walk on hot coals than to share the gospel with our neighbors.
Here’s what I mean: The Great Commission included a command (a participle actually) about teaching our converts to obey everything Jesus commanded us to do (Matthew 28:20). Some have counted fifty commands of Jesus, so that’s a lot to teach.
So we start digging into those fifty or so commands and we come up with some things we particularly like, such as the “one-another commands,” the need to worship (with our favorite kind of music), the need to study the Bible together and the obligation to enjoy frequent church dinners.
In other words, churches have many good things to do and many of them are very enjoyable, but they only have one mission: making disciples.
Since misalignment is as easy as hitting potholes in Wisconsin in April, church leaders must continually, tenaciously, tirelessly call their churches back to their one, actual mission.
You must teach it, preach it, model it, pray about it and program it or it won’t happen. Everything your church does must be aligned or realigned to serve that one great purpose.
Worship is wonderful, but we’ll worship better in heaven. Fellowship is awesome, but our fellowship will be sweeter in heaven as well. Studying the Bible is great, but studying the Bible is supposed to equip us to be more effective at making disciples.
Making disciples is the one Christian activity which we can’t do and won’t do in heaven; it’s now or never and it’s the only mission of every church.
Does your church look like it’s on a mission? Does it look like it’s on a mission to make disciples?
- Does our church have a widely understood mission statement?
- Does our church look like it’s on a mission?
- If our church is out of alignment, how did this happen?
- How can we get our church back into missional alignment?
- As leaders, are we modeling, praying and teaching disciple-making?