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Concise, clear, and specific mission


When I'm in a church I usually ask various people to verbalize their mission. It's a trick question really because I don't elaborate on what I'm specifically asking. They don't know if I'm referencing their personal purpose in life or the mission of the church. Sometimes they ask, do you mean me or us? My answer is "yes", meaning I'm asking about both. This line of discovery usually happens in informal settings without the prompting of others. It grows out of a personal conviction that the spiritual drift so apparent in our nation is partly the result of not understanding God's purpose in our lives, especially in the spiritual leadership cohort. So, why are you here?

Back in the day when our church was exploring this topic a state convention consultant guided us in mission statement preparation. One of the things we heard over and over again involved what he called the acid test of any mission statement. The acid test is the final evidence of an effective mission statement. He said it was simply this: can every member of the church recite the mission statement? I had always thought that the real proof of mission statement effectiveness was the attainability of it. Was it reasonable and reachable? Later I learned that everyone knowing it was step one, as basic as that sounds. Then our consultant recommended two ways to prove the acid test: the coffee mug test, and the t-shirt test. If the mission statement is too long to be printed on a coffee mug or t-shirt it was too long for everyone to remember.

Well, I'm not sure about the acid test anymore because we've learned about tag lines and slogans and branding as means of communicating mission. But, there is the truth that our purpose in life, whether addressing the assignment of the me or the us, should always be concise, clear, and specific. Mission is not a place for broad, sweeping, generalities. That's the venue of vision---the wider scope of a dream or long-term aspiration. If we're going to have a declaration of purpose, it should be a brief phrase that compels us to action. The brevity and specificity of the mission also permits making it visible to everyone in printed media throughout the church.

Jesus announced his mission several times. Please allow me to share several Scriptural references to what he perceived as the reason for his coming---

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good

news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and

recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to

proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

Luke 4:18-19, ESV

I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well;

for I was sent for this purpose.

Luke 4:43, ESV

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Luke 19:10, ESV

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

John 4:34, ESV

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10, ESV

Understanding the Incarnation and the atonement are certainly bigger theological concepts than these few verses. But, it is very apparent that Jesus knew the purpose of his mission and that he pursued it with with absolute obedience. John later wrote the Lord's summary of the mission----

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.

John 17:4, ESV

More to the point, Jesus shared his mission with the Apostles and the other disciples on many occasions. He wanted them to know in a concise, clear, and specific way why he had come. In his first epistle, John reminded us that we are to follow Christ's example---

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to

walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 2:5-6, ESV

Translation? We're supposed to know our mission too. It should be concise, clear, and specific. There are many resources available to assist in developing and expressing a personal and church mission statement. Google it and take off. Being missional begins with leaders on mission.


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