On Mission Statements, Core Values and the Power of Three Adjectives

I am sure house churches never have to deal with this issue, but as old fashioned church planters we’re often taught to start out a church plant with a well-crafted mission statement. To which I say “A mission statement?” Can mission be put into a statement? How can you put the Kingdom of God into a mission statement? Well, some might say, any organization needs a direction. But does not such a well-crafted mission statement imply we know what the future will look like? Not to overstate my case here, but to quote one my favorite passages from Yoder:

“If we claim to justify the actions we take by the effects they promise, we shall be led to pride in the abuse of power in those cases when it seems that we can reach our goals by the means of our own disposal. … We are drawn into the twofold pride of thinking that we, more than others, see things as they really are and of claiming the duty and the power to coerce others in order to move history aright. If our faithfulness is to be guided by the kind of man Jesus was it must cease to be guided by the quest to have dominion over the course of events. We cannot sight down the line of our obedience to the attainment of the ends we seek.”(Royal Priesthood p.203).

Our church had so many mid course developments I don’t know if a mission statement would have helped or hindered the development of our community. So I say scrap mission statements. And BTW, if we do go with mission statements, should not all churches have the same mission statement?

Also, according to church planting 101, after the mission statement, you are supposed to outline the core values of your church and then chart a path with 4 or 5 steps (some maybe call them “bases”) that organize the way people get assimilated into the church program. These values distinguish you from other churches. They describe what you are committed to and how you are addressing the context of your local community. In other words, these are marketing niches? I don ‘t know, I am just asking.

What I fear from this approach is that by setting such a course, the community that comes together becomes merely participants in one person’s idea, not the mission of God. The organic alive development of the community into mission as discovered in the discernment of the community together might be squelched. I can tell you the best discernments and moves our church has discerned, have come from someone other than me, the “senior” pastor. And now so many more people have ownership in what God is doing here at “the Vine.” Furthermore, with all this mission-values-plan of assimilation stuff, there’s a danger that this becomes all too original, new and improved and loses the continuity with the Body of Christ universal.

As our church evolved, we never really sync-ed with the mission statement value stuff. We moved towards “adjectives” – three beautiful adjectives that describe what we are striving to be in continuity with the work of God in Christ. TRANSFORMATIONAL, COMMUNAL, MISSIONAL. I suppose they could be a mission statement, some might say “these are your core values” but I look at them as the character of the Body of Christ wherever His presence is cultivated. They describe how we’ll know we are actually part of a Body of Christ. These adjectives are not overly directive. They are not market driven. Yet they possess a theological depth that is compelling enough to give us direction and tell others what we are about. The simple power of three adjectives. These adjectives seem to describe a lot of missional churches I know. In fact I am sure other missional-type churches have used these or similar adjectives as well.

Transformational – worship is not a pep rally or a lecture hall. It is transformation through interaction with God, His Word, His Presence, His Table. There’s accessible liturgy at our church. And our triads have Benedictine qualities to them for spiritual formation.(Rom 12;1-2). Communal – We have all family potlucks twice a month. We have missional home groups that meet in several places in the neighborhoods. Community and journeying together is what it means to be the Body (1 Cor 12, Eph 4). Missional – Evangelism is not a program. Missions is not a foreign outreach committee(only). We’re learning that every activity in our lives is opportunity for mission. And so we spend time in the retirement home, the soup kitchen, as well as some of the most amazing one on one’s with hurting people I’ve been involved in. And we’ve had great opportunities to make relationships with overseas efforts for mission. 2 Cor 5:17-19.

And so we put these adjectives on the back of the bulletin. Yes we have bulletins. We’re in the suburbs, so we’ve got to have bulletins. For those who care : this is what is on the back of our bulletins.

When we gather for worship on Sundays, or in triads during the week, may our encounter with God in Christ truly shape who we are. Seeking more than an emotional arousal or intellectual critique, let us join those who have gone before us and submit our minds, bodies, and souls to the living Lord.

Whether at a local house gathering, a church potluck, or the Lord’s Table, may God grant us hearts of hospitality, embracing one another in the unity of the Spirit. Let us be an authentic community that journeys together, bearing one another’s burdens and speaking truth in love.

Every day may we be Christ’s presence to the hurting, lost, and victimized people of this often-unjust world. Let us welcome the stranger and offer words of life. Joining hands with churches around the globe, we participate in what God is doing everywhere to redeem the world to himself.

OK .. I’ve probably been a bit flippant on my analysis here. But where is everybody else at out there with mission statements, core values etc..


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