Over the past few decades, the idea of having a mission statement has been the topic of many an article and even some books. By now, most churches, growing or dying, have one. The question is, do they help? It depends on whether or not the pastor and church are living into them.  What do I mean by that? Read on.

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a pastor I’m coaching.  His question was about what to do with their mission, vision, and value statements. His question was in the context of how to preach them.  The conversation sparked several thoughts I want to pass along to you.

First he asked if his church needed all three. My response was, “You need them, whether they are on paper or in your heart. Every person and church needs to know why they exist, how they will achieve their purpose, and what they value. Whether or not this is on paper isn’t the issue. The issue is whether you know them and try to live into them.” My response led to how you live into who you are and what you value as a leader.

A lot of churches have these statements.  You see them on the bulletin or letterheads or around the church.  But just having these statements or posting them around the church or on your letterhead makes little difference if you and your church are not living into them. By that I mean you allow them to guide all of your decisions – not just when you are preaching, but at every turn of the road – how you spend your time, energy, and money.

For example, let’s say your mission statement is “Every Person a Backyard Missionary.” If you are living into this mission statement, you will be prone to ask things like, “If we spend this money, how will it result in more backyard missionaries?” “If we hire this person, how will they help us fulfill our mission?” “Does this person fit our DNA (values)?”  If these actions don’t lead to more backyard missionaries, then you don’t do them.

The same is true with preaching.  You don’t have to state the mission statement in every message but you do have to bring your mission statement to your interpretation of every text.  If it is a part of you, it will happen naturally and your message will convey it even if you don’t mention it.

Take Jesus’ words, “Go make disciples” as an example. Someone whose primary mission in life is to take care of people would probably interpret that statement to mean, “Grow our members deeper in their faith with little or no thought of making more disciples who make disciples.” Whereas, someone whose primary mission in life is to transform people and/or society will interpret the words to mean, “Go make as many new converts as possible and we can worry about taking them deeper afterwards.”

Living into your mission statement means that you allow it to drive everything you do – how you live, preach, lead, and interpret Scripture. Having a mission statement is more than just having it on paper and posting it in the bulletin or on the wall.  Your mission statement is who you are and how you live.  If it doesn’t jive with the mission of the church you are in the wrong place and need to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible – or you need to lead the church into a better place because just taking care of people is not what Jesus meant by “Go make disciples.”

So do you know exactly why God put you on this planet? Is your call so laser-focused that there is no way to avoid it or be unsure if you are fulfilling it? Do you allow it to speak into every decision you make, or do you allow the noise of the crowd to enter into the conversation?

These are some of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself. They can turn you inside out and make you a more effective servant of Christ.

I’ve told my favorite example of someone being so clear about their call that it drives their every moment.  My example is Mark Driscoll. I know; some people find him crude, but I find him driven by his call.  I asked him one day what God called him to do.  Without hesitation he replied, “God called me to plant a thousand churches in my lifetime.”  Now that is the kind of call when you get to end of life’s journey you will know whether or not you fulfilled your reason for being here.

I hope your call is that sharp and clear.

Question: How does your church staff live into your mission statement? Share your experiences in the Comments section below.

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