Businesses, organizations, non-profit ministries and even churches all seem to have Mission or Purpose or Vision statements. Many have all three. These statements can function as a compass, a GPS if you will, that points the way and gives direction.
Purpose, Vision and Mission statements have been used for decades in the business community and has now made its way into the mainstream of the church. These statement they have their place.
I have a theory -unproven- but here goes…
In the social revolutions of the 1960’s and 1970’s the church began to lose its place in the culture. Prior to this, the church was a well-established fixture in the American fabric. It had its place. It functioned within those boundaries and enjoyed moderate success and growth. The cultural challenges of the post-modern and now post-Christian era have shaken the historic and presumed role of the church in culture and as a result the church began scrambling for an identity in the shifting sands of society.
As the church and various faith-based ministries embraced the business model and began to develop mission statements, some very good phrases emerged:
-To know Christ and make Him known
-Making Disciple Makers
-To Reach Up, to Reach Out, to Reach In
-Fully Human, Deeply Christ-Like, Fully Alive
(If you Google “church mission statements” you will find hundreds of examples) This may help in marketing a specific church or ministry. It may give people a snapshot of the focus of a congregation. These mission statements act as signposts giving direction and purpose.
In 2002 there was a cultural phenomenon when Rick Warren published his acclaimed book The Purpose Driven Life. It has sold over 30 million copies. There is a lot to commend in the book and in some ways it takes the idea of a mission statement and applies it to an individual. It does produce in me a concern and it may simply be semantics. I do not want a driven spirituality.
So here is my point. I think the church and Christians have a defined mission already. If we are to summarize our purpose our mission I would rather we use the term Rule of Life.
The C.S. Lewis Institute defines a Rule of Life as… an intentional pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. Rule establishes a rhythm for life which is helpful for being formed by the Spirit, a rhythm that reflects a love for God and respect for how he has made us. The disciplines which we build into our rhythm of life help us to shed the “old self” and allow our “new self” in Christ to be formed. Spiritual disciplines are means of grace by which God can nourish us. Ultimately a Rule should help you to love God more…
In this regard a Rule of Life never changes. Mission statements tend to be tweaked or changed over the years. A Rule is a constant in the church and an individual. Years ago Bishop John W. Howe made a comment in a convention address. He said, “Great Commandment + Great Commission = A Great Church.“ That has stayed with me and in many ways has become my own Rule. To define this the Great Commandment is to love God with all that I am; to love others as Jesus has loved me. The Great Commission is to go into all the world and make disciples. In essence, loving the world by sharing the Good News of God in Christ Jesus.
So think for a moment: What moves you? What is your focus day by day? What do you want to accomplish? For me its gets simple in terms of mission: Love God, Love Others, Love the World. Accomplishing this mission is daunting and I often fail, but I live everyday with a determined purpose and this Rule acts like a compass guiding the way.