The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 223
If you were asked, “What is the mandate of the Church,” what would your answer be? It’s an important question because what we believe the answer to be becomes our mission. That which we believe to be preeminent in driving our actions has a lot of weight on its shoulders. It’s not something to be taken lightly.
Many churches operate without an active mission statement or with one that is seldom spoken of or known by more than a few. It would be a rare find to come across a healthy, thriving, and growing church that has not clearly articulated a mission and focused on living it out.
Do you have a mission statement? Do you use it? Is it even any good? Let’s look at how to evaluate your church’s mission statement.
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How to Evaluate Your Church’s Mission Statement
Is the Great Commission at the core?
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus made it clear that our mandate is to make and mature disciples. That’s our mission, the Great Commission. Jesus prefaced the mandate with the statement that he had been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth. With an opening like that, you better believe that what he said next he was serious about.
There is sometimes debate on the Great Commission versus the Great Commandment found in Matthew chapter 22. Jesus was asked specifically what the greatest commandment was. Shouldn’t our mission match his answer to that question? Shouldn’t our mission be to love God and love people? Yes, but not exactly. Consider first the context and audience. It was a Pharisee, an expert in the law, who posed the question to Jesus in an attempt to trick him. The question was very specific – “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus’ answer to him was in the context in which the question was asked. He told him what the greatest commandment was in the law. I am not trying to diminish the power of his answer. Can you imagine a world in which everyone loved God and loved each other? Sounds like Heaven. A time is coming in which that will be true.
The Great Commission, however, was given as a nearly final word from Christ after the resurrection. Final marching orders before his ascension. Consider again the edification clause of the Great Commission – “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded.” Jesus had many teachings and commands throughout his earthly ministry. Chief among them would be “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we put our effort into the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we get the Great Commandment by default.
Are both parts of the Great Commission clearly articulated?
Look closely again at the Great Commission. We clearly see two things commanded. First, “go and make disciples.” That is a command to evangelize all the peoples of the earth. To tell of the good news of Christ. In the context of the local church this should be expressed both collectively in the ministries of the church, but also individually by the transformed people of the church.
Second, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded.” This is Christian edification. By the way, “obey” or “observe,” depending on your translation, speaks to action on the part of the recipient. It is not passive learning. James 1:22-25 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” Observance or obedience demonstrates an understanding and transformation. Perhaps even repentance.
Based on the gravity of these two components, you can see how important it is that they are communicated to the hearers of the church’s mission.
Is it easy to understand?
This may seem elementary, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s been said that clarity is king, and your mission statement is vital to the Kingdom in service to the one true King. The words you choose for a mission statement matter. A good rule of thumb is that the statement would be understood by the least mature Christian in your church. Remember, the mission statement is primarily an internal tool. It’s okay to publish it on your website, but its purpose is to direct the church, not attract people to it.
Your mission statement should resonate with your church’s culture and language. What is understood well in one part of the world may be confusing somewhere else.
Is it memorable?
No matter how much time and effort you put into a mission statement, it will not carry the power you need if nobody can remember it. A good statement will range from a few words to a couple of short sentences. Beyond that, people will begin to forget what may be key parts.
As a support to the statement itself being memorable, you should also use it in ways in which people will actually memorize it. A worship service should not go by without it being stated. After attending your church for just a short period of time, people should know what your primary focus is based on what you say your mission is and what you say about it being your mission.
Is it used?
This is the big one. You can have the most perfect expression of the Great Commission, clearly articulated, easily understood, and known by all, but if you do not actively plan ministry around its accomplishment, then you’ve done nothing towards making it a reality for your church.
Your mission statement should be the first filter that all ministries are run through. Will this introduce people to Jesus or lead them to obedience to the commands of Scripture? If yes, keep working on it. If not, drop it. This goes for existing ministries, too. Spend some time running through what your church presently does against the test of the Great Commission.
A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.