bits from bob....

Purpose, Mission, and Vision

by Robert J. Young
©, 2006, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

A brother writes: .I have recently become very interested in the dynamics of small churches. I appreciate the materials you placed online. They are very helpful. Nevertheless, I am having a problem grasping the difference between mission and purpose. So, if you have the time I have a few questions.

The questions raised by this brother focus on the distinction between purpose, mission, and vision. Let me share a portion of what I wrote in response.

Purpose is overarching. What is God's intent for the church? The ultimate definition of purpose is God. What was God's intention (purpose) in the church? We have helpful texts (e.g. Eph. 1:9-10, 3:1-13, etc.) A concordance study will add to this list of texts. Of course, human beings may also define a purpose for the church. Ideally, our intention is the same as and not different than God's intention.

Mission signifies sending. The mission is defined by the reason one is sent. This simple concept explains why for years we have thought of mission(s) as going overseas and sharing the gospel--that was why missionaries were sent. With contemporary discussions about the missional church, we are expanding our concept of why we are sent (to accomplish God's purpose for the world) and where we are sent (into the entire world-even next door). More recently, we have begun to think of the entire church as sent forth into the world. Such is consistent with the Great Commission when it is applied to all Christians everywhere in every time.

Vision has come (in the corporate or business world) to be an expression of the ideal that would be reached if all could be accomplished as purposed or planned. Vision statements provide a definition of where we hope to go and what we will look like when we get there. Often vision statements are done in both brief and expanded formats.

With these three brief definitions in mind, allow me to respond to the questions raised by the reader.

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Last updated November 7, 2006