The big C Church has always had one mission. Usually called “The Great Commission,” Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew summarize the purpose of the Church:
“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20
The same concept of going, proclaiming the Gospel, being witnesses, and making disciples is echoed through the other commissions of Jesus (Mark 16:15, John 20:21, Acts 1:8).
So the mission of the big C Church and thus every little c church is to make disciples.
So why do churches need mission statements?
If the Church Universal has one mission, why do individual churches need mission statements?
The point of a church having a mission statement is NOT to declare a mission in place of the Great Commission, but to explain how that church, for its unique time and place, is living out the Great Commission.
Think about it. There are hundreds of thousands of churches all over the world and have been many churches throughout history. No two churches are the same. Every church has a unique DNA–a mixture of the community around them, their own unique strengths, and the passions they have instilled by God’s Spirit.
So when a church declares their mission, it’s to clarify their unique role in living out the Great Commission. Will Mancini, author of Church Unique, calls this “the Great Permission within the Great Commission.”
This gives each congregation the ability to focus on the handful of things they are uniquely gifted to do, and to do them with excellence.
So why do churches change their mission statement?
This begs the question, if a church comes up with a mission statement, why change it?
Since the purpose of a mission statement is to share each church’s unique place in God’s Kingdom, then a mission statement ought to be fluid enough to shape to the context to which God has called that particular congregation.
So while the context and the wording of a mission statement may change, the mandate to make disciples does not. The purpose of changing the statement is to clarify the mission within the Great Commission.
These questions can help a church determine whether or not they need to update their mission statement:
- Does the current mission statement reflect the location, context, and the community to which the congregation is called?
- Does the current mission statement point to the strengths, resources, and gifts of the congregation?
- Does the current mission statement draw on the passions of the congregation?
So what makes a good mission statement?
Will Mancini, a church consultant who has been advising churches for over 15 years (including several LCMS churches) offers five tests to help churches determine if their mission statement is effective or need to be tweaked:
- Clear is measured by the Junior High Rule: Is our language clear enough that a twelve-year-old boy who has not been to church would understand it?
- Concise is measured by the One Breath Rule: Can the mission statement be stated in one breath?
- Compelling is measured by the Resonance Rule: When the mission statement is stated, does this make people want to say it again because they are delightful to hear?
- Catalytic is measured by the Actionability Rule: Does our terminology inherently remind the listener to act rather than define success as what professional ministers do?
- Contextual is measured by the Bouquet Rule: Do the words communicate biblical truth for the listener’s time and place, thus going to the garden of the Word and arranging the perfect bouquet for our people?
So what do you think? Does your church have a mission statement that points to the biblical mandate to make disciples? Does your mission statement reflect your church’s unique DNA and context and take account of its time and place?
Feel free to leave your reactions in the comments below!
Note: As a part of the Shepherd at 50 initiative, we are revisiting and revising our mission statement so that we can best represent Shepherd’s unique place in God’s Kingdom for the Northwest region of San Antonio in 2016 and beyond. The purpose isn’t to change who we are, but to clarify who we are and our calling to reach our community. Your thoughts and reflections during this process are welcomed!