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Developing a Mission
The importance of the mission.

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Why is the ministry's mission so important? It affects the church in numerous essential ways. Here are nine of them.

The Mission Dictates the Ministry's Direction

Before embarking on a flight, most people want to know where their plane is going. Otherwise, as Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankee catcher, once said, "If you don't know where you're going, you might end up somewhere else." Leaders and their churches must have a direction, and it is the mission that provides that important direction. It answers the directional question, Where are we going? Thus the ministry's mission is directional. It provides a compelling sense of direction, a target for everyone to aim at, and it serves to focus the congregation's energy

Leaders in the Bible demonstrated a strong sense of direction. Moses pursued with a passion his mission to lead Israel out of bondage to the Promised Land (Ex.3:10). The same is true of Joshua (Josh.1:1-5), David (2 Sam. 5:2), Nehemiah (Neh. 2:17), and others. The Savior's mission directed his ministry (Mark 10:45), and Paul was passionate about his direction throughout his ministry (Acts 21:12-14; Rom. 15:20).

The Mission Formulates the Ministry's Function

Besides direction, the mission helps a ministry to formulate or determine its biblical function. It answers the strategic, functional question, What are we supposed to be doing? What function does the organization exist to perform? What is the primary or main thing that God has called us to accomplish? What are we attempting to do for God and our people? Therefore, the mission is an expression of strategic intent. It summarizes and provides the church with its biblical task, and it defines the results that it seeks to obtain.

The Mission Focuses the Ministry's Future

Both the directional and functional questions above address the church's future. That is because the mission, like the church's vision, has everything to do with its future. Though we cannot predict the future (except for biblical prophecy), we can create it, and that is the job of the mission. A clear, biblical mission serves to bring into focus the church's ministry future. The converse is also true: no mission, no future.

In addition, by focusing on the future, the mission helps the ministry not to live in and focus on the past. Paul put his past behind him and pushed forward to experience Christ. In Philippians 3:13-14, he writes, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." We must learn from the past but not live in the past.

The Mission Provides a Guideline for Decision Making

Every day church leaders have to make decisions. It comes with the ministry territory. A dynamic mission or intent not only focuses the church's future, it sets important boundaries. It guides what the church will and will not attempt. It provides direction for when to say yes and when to say no. Mission is to the ministry what a rudder is to a ship, a compass to a navigator, a template to a machinist. It provides a framework for critical thinking, a standard or criterion for all decision making.

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Topics:Decision making, Decisions, Leadership, Mission statements, Objectives, Strategy, Vision
Filters:Business administrator, Church board, Discipleship, Management, Pastor, Pastoral care
References:John 17:20, Ephesians 4:3

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Gaylan Mathiesen

November 17, 2010  11:07am

This article does well in showing how the mission should be the starting place and shape all that follows. What makes me uncomfortable with articles like this is the stress on scientific management method in the life of the church--it comes off as rather anthropocentric, and plays into the modernist approach of the 20th century. I think churches would benefit today from rethinking their ecclesiology--what is the church and why is it here? When we're thinking "mission" we must remember that mission is rooted, grounded and sourced not in the church, but in a missionary God who created His church to be a missionary people. The one thing we can't do in heaven is point people to the Savior and God's Kingdom--that's why we're here. Everything we do as Christ's community serves our participation in God's mission here on earth. This should be our starting point, with planning for structure and organization following out of that. The result will not be self-service but service to God's mission.

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