In the pursuit of effective growth, a large portion of the church learned about mission statements. We valued the wisdom of business gurus who said every organization needed a mission. The best way to get a mission was to form a mission statement.
Of course, the church has a mission. Jesus gave it to us.
But we set out to craft our personalized statements. Several years ago, I did some Internet exploring of church mission statements. I looked at over two hundred congregations from around the U.S. and from various Christian denominations. There were three things that stood out to me.
First, there was a boundary that most churches found themselves. The majority of churches said something about loving God and loving people. They tend to include the word disciple or some sense of following Jesus.
My second observation was a lot of churches get too wordy. We learned about mission statements and then tried to fit everything that sounded churchy into one sentence. Apparently, a lot of churches want to do a lot of things.
Finally, I noticed that many churches have several mission statements. There’s one for the church. The youth group has one. The older adult ministry has a separate mission, as does the women’s ministry and each committee of every possible event.
It feels like our adaptation of the business model needs some tweaking. If you try to do too much, nothing tends to get done. And if everyone is doing their own thing, is it any wonder why churches aren’t focused on what should be our first priority?
In today’s Bible passage, John writes to little children, fathers and young people. I read that to include all people of the church. Little children could be children and/or those who are young in faith. Fathers are those people who have walked with Jesus for a long time. Young people could be those who aren’t quite new to faith but also aren’t seen as the old, wise followers either.
This passage made me think about church mission statements because John’s purpose seems threefold: Know God; know God’s forgiveness; walk in God’s victory.
To me, it comes down to one mission. That is to know God. Depending on where we are in our walk with God, what we need to know about God might be different. But there is still one thing driving our faith.
If it’s hard to determine what’s the one thing driving our faith and ministry today, that’s telling. It could be we’re over-missioned.
There’s your work for this week.
Think about your church. How many mini-missions are running around? Spoken, written or assumed? What’s the one thing your church says they want to do? Do your activities and conversations prove that’s the one thing that matters most? Oh, and does what your church prioritize match what Jesus commissioned us to do?