A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Do Churches Need to Develop Mission Statements?

Every church I have served has had a mission statement. I have assisted churches in developing mission statements. Some of those statements have been quite good, others are nothing more than idyllic preference-driven affirmations on how the church can continue to serve only itself. Since the church has a mission, having a mission statement seems quite logical.

But does the church need to develop a mission statement when Jesus has already given us one?
And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you' (Matthew 28:18-20).
I know that when churches develop mission statements they mean well, but in doing so do they unintentionally suggest that they can improve upon the mission Jesus gave the church some two millennia ago? We are to go to all the nations in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and that mission has not changed. Perhaps we feel the need to have a second mission statement because we want to add our two cents, believing we have to have a say in what we should be doing as the church.

Now some might suggest that a mission statement gives more detail, fills out, Jesus' marching orders he has given to the church. But the experts in mission statements insist that a good mission statement is short and to the point and easy to memorize, and a long mission statement is counter-productive and basically useless. What is shorter and more to the point than Jesus' charge to make disciples of all nations?

No individual church needs to develop a mission statement. We've had one for two thousand years. What each church needs to do is to get to the task of keeping the charge we've already been given.


Margie Bryce said...

I am sooo glad to hear someone say this. Someheow we got off track with that "make disciples" thing, to the point where I am not sure how many could aptly describe what it means to be a disciple. And, we forget that to make disciples, first one has to BE a disciple.

Yes indeed... we all have the same mission statement... now is the time to rally!

Sally said...

love it, I have spent so much time and energy working with churches and circuits to develop mission statements over the years only to produce a document and carry on as before. If we took Jesus mission seriously we might start to rearrange our priorities!

Dr. Tony said...

We can use the Great Commission as a mission statement provided we understand what we are being asked to do.

I think it would be better to look at ways to accomplish the mission statement.

Randy said...

Thanks for the post, Allan.

You know, I'm a missional leader. Mission is critical. And I love meaningful, memorable, slogans.

But I think I'm coming to agree that, if we're not careful, our statements may distract from Jesus' words, which are the only words that are missional critical.

David said...

While I agree, I am also in the midst of having to work with churches to determine the "Why should we do that?" - the purpose, and most especially the "how do we do that?" questions.

geolawton said...

The problem with using Matt. 28:18-20 as our exclusive mission statement is 2 fold: first, Jesus "said" this only once, in "suspicious" cirumstances. It is more likely to be the early church's mission statement (not that there is anything wrong with that), not Jesus'. Second, Jesus repeatedly and emphatically directed his followers to be in mission to the poor and marginalized, not to "make disciples." If we are truly in mission to the poor, disciples will come. Maybe not in huge numbers but in deep committment.

Dr. Tony said...

I think we are hung up on the word "disciple". I will trust more learned individuals (such as Allan) to provide a better translation but Clarence Jordan uses the word "student" in his Cotton Patch Gospel translation.

If our task is to make students of Christ, then we must teach.

And if we must teach, it needs to be in a manner similar to that which Jesus and the twelve did their early work; that is, in the field and with the people.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Geo: Thanks for your thoughts.

I do not agree with you that Jesus' words concerning going into all the world are a suspicious product of the early church. These words are clearly consistent with Jesus' own ministry.

I realize the baptismal formula is another and more thorny matter, but that is another subject for another time.

Second, Jesus' needed to make disciples of his own disciples before they could make disciples themselves. And feeding the poor is a necessary part of discipleship. And while feeding the poor may indeed make some disciples, we need to be about making disciples who will, among other things, feed the poor.