bits from bob....

The Mission of the Church

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Understanding Mission, Goals, and Objectives
For many organizations, and many churches, the connections and definitions of mission, goals, and objectives is fuzzy. Churches write "mission statements" but many of those statements are too broad to function effectively. One helpful way to think about these concepts is to answer the three questions, "Why, What, and How?" The answers to these questions will provide insights into the mission, goals, and strategies or objectives of an organization. The answers are interrelated and may at times seem to overlap. Answers in one area will influence the possibilities in another area.
Mission is the "why" of an organization. Why does the church exist? Mission is different than goals. When one determines "what" the church will do to fulfill its "why", one is setting forth goals to be reached. Some suggest that mission represents THE one big, final goal, but I find it more helpful to leave mission in the realm of the why, and to recognize that accomplishing the mission is a combination of various goals along the way-some short-term, others long-term. Goals are the "what" of the organization. Finally, one must determine the "how", that is, what objectives (sometimes called strategies) will be used to reach the goals? One can visualize this as a tree trunk (mission) with large branches that produce smaller branches. Much strategic planning begins at the wrong end-pasting on new little branches or lopping off existing branches without the overall mission in view.

An Illustration
One can illustrate these connections in Christian higher education. In Christian higher education, the mission is to provide a Christian education to students in various major fields of study. The mission is to produce graduates with a Christian worldview who will succeed in their chosen fields of endeavor. But every Christian university is not identical? Why?
With the mission in view, every Christian university must decide the "what". Most Christian universities cannot do everything, so defining specific goals sets priorities and agendas and recognizes limitations. Most universities offer training in a limited number of fields to a limited number of students. Each university must decide what goals will help it accomplish the mission (a general version of which is shared by all Christian universities). Typical "what" questions include what majors to offer, what sports to offer, and what students to recruit.
The answers to these "what" questions influence the "how". Will remedial courses be needed? What majors are most appealing to students? What majors require financial investments consistent with the abilities of the university?

Church: Mission, Goals, Objectives
For the church, the mission is the same as the mission of the Lord Jesus. As Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), so the church is sent forth into the world as declaration of God's wisdom. For the church, the Great Commission describes the commission and the mission (Matthew 28:18-20): make disciples, mark disciples, and mature disciples.
Even as the church keeps its mission and the Great Commission in mind, each individual church finds different answers when it asks the question: "What should we do?" Churches have different opportunities, different ministry and mission contexts, different contacts, different interests and skills in the members. This means that within the overarching mission or purpose of God, God also has a unique purpose for each church. He sends forth his people to accomplish his purpose. Each church must ask "what" it will do. What are appropriate goals?
Finally, each individual church must determine the "how"-what are the strategies that will help this church reach its goals? In the strategies and actions that are designed to reach the goals, the church finds its unique identity.

Five Biblical Goals to Support the Mission
The Bible does not leave the church without direction concerning its activities. In fact, the New Testament sets forth five major concepts that provide generic answers to the "what" question. While each church will set specific goals which are further defined by the strategies employed, these five "what" concepts reflect God's general intent for the church. These ideas can guide the church as it participates in God's mission. These reflect the nature of the New Testament church as a community of worship, teaching, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

  • Worship; Adoration
    We are people of worship. We are called to reflect his glory. We believe God wants his people to glorify Him in all that we do. We seek to exalt him.

  • Teaching; Nurturing; Discipleship
    The church is a place for growing spiritually. Faith develops as a seed and is nurtured over time. Encouraging others to develop faith is one of the primary ways the church exhibits itself as a place of caring. These guiding concepts [worship, spiritual growth, connections, telling the story, and serving] are at the heart of genuine discipleship. Jesus calls us to spiritual growth to become his faithful followers. We want to grow spiritually in order to become mature disciples.

  • Fellowship; Connecting
    The church is also a place for belonging; we are people connected in Christian community. Meaningful connections allow us to touch the lives of those around us, to encourage other Christians, and to respond to the needs of our world.

  • Evangelism
    The heart of the good news (evangelism is a verb form of this concept) is that Jesus changes lives. This is the message and ministry we have accepted. We go forth telling the story. We seek to live in the sacred story of Jesus, and to tell that story every way we can. We are committed to sharing the story. As we live in the story of Christ, he empowers us to reach out to others and share the story. God calls us to reach out wherever we can; our efforts to reach out extend around the world.

  • Service; Sharing
    We believe the church is a place for sharing; we are people who share. Above all, we share Jesus. But sharing Jesus demands also that we share resources and life. One way we share is by serving others. Jesus said we serve him when we serve others (Matthew 25). Imitating Jesus means that we are servants of all, even as he came to serve and not to be served.

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    Last updated May 6, 2011