by Rev. Peter Turnbull
The vision of the Coca-Cola company is, “to refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit, [and] to inspire moments of optimism and happiness”.
“Get real”, I hear you say, “it’s a fizzy drink”.
We are (not unjustifiably) suspicious of anything that smacks of corporate mumbo-jumbo, especially in the church.
Quite right too. The local church is not a corporation to be managed but a family to cherish; Christ’s own body to which each member belongs as they trust him as Saviour and submit to Him as Lord.
All of this is true, but remember, there are babies, and there is bathwater, so let’s pause for a moment and try to ensure the former doesn’t face too hasty an ejection along with the latter.
Perhaps we could describe healthy leadership as “serving people by moving them toward a better future”? By the way, before you dismiss that definition as more corporate jargon, the models I have in mind are not Musk but Moses, not Jobs or Page, but Joshua and Paul; who, in challenging circumstances, had God-given vision for a people redeemed, a land conquered, and the gospel proclaimed.
Here in Burghead, our congregation has adopted both a Mission and a Vision statement*
- Mission: “Knowing Jesus and making Jesus known”.
- Vision: “To grow, to be a vibrant, all-age church of 100 disciples”.
James 4:15 should give us humility in planning and vision casting but it is certainly not a prohibition on these. We have found our mission and vision statements very helpful tools in the task of church revitalisation.
Mission statements must be three things if they are to be of any use.
- Biblical based and locally applied – how does the unchanging mission of the church to love God and neighbour by proclaiming the gospel touch down in the specifics of your situation?
- Short, memorable, and frequently used – a phrase at best, a sentence at most. To be useful, your vision must drive action, and it won’t do that if no one can remember it.
- Faith stretching but not faith snapping. We chose to include a numerical target, which I know will set some teeth on edge. However, as a church of 25, a vision for 100 stretched our faith, drew us to prayer, and inspired us to action. By God’s grace, we have seen progress toward that vision. A target of 1000 would have been useless since none of us would have believed it to be realistic (which doubtless reflects more on our faith than the Lord’s power).
Mission statements bring the following benefits.
- Everyone has some vision – why not make it a good one?! The fact is everyone has some vague sense of the future in their mind. Optimists picture it as slightly better than the present, pessimists as slightly worse. How much better to have a well thought out Biblical vision to expand your congregation’s horizons and make you deliberately think, pray and plan for the future.
- They help with planning, administration, and organisation. A congregation of 25 is a completely different beast to a congregation of 200: they have different relational dynamics and require different levels of organisation and patterns of leadership. Sometimes growth may be inhibited because of administrative bottlenecks created by the fact that a church of 200 is still trying to behave like a church of 25. Having a vision of where you want to be can help you prepare to be there.
- They help navigate change. A congregation who are unified in the big picture of their mission will be better able to jump hurdles of personal preference along the way.
- They help you say no. One of the perennial problems of congregational life is uncontrolled busyness. Used properly, mission statements can filter out extraneous church programmes which might be ‘good’ but are not really ‘on mission’.
- People and resources flow towards vision. We have experienced this many times in our revitalisation journey. Christian folk have crossed the country to join us, believers moving into the area have spotted us, even the local community have taken note and have shown an interest. Others have been inspired to pray for us and given resources (including, in one case, a building!) because they saw we had a sense of vision for gospel work in our village.
* For more on the differences between mission and vision and more pick up “Advanced Strategic Planning” by Aubrey Malphurs (catchy, I know).