Saturday, April 16, 2016

Seminary PL4: The Mission, Great and Small

This is the fourth post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The first three were:
1. One task to which a pastor may give oversight is strategic planning. Strategic planning is the process by which an organization determines what its goals are for the future and how it plans to meet them. Strategic planning is rooted in the organization's mission, which in turn leads to a vision for the future, which ideally results eventually in strategic goals and implementation plans.

Without goals, a person or organization just tends to wander aimlessly through its existence. Without a sense of mission or vision, an organization is unclear about its identity or purpose. We can of course have such things without them being fully conscious or thought through, but the more intentional and conscious we are about them, the more likely we are to meet them.

2. A local church at some point might develop a mission statement. This is a statement of the church's basic identity. For example, the mission statement of the local church I attend states that it "partners with God to restore people and redeem the world by reflecting the image of Jesus Christ." This is a very general statement that could refer to just about any church in the world.

In most respects, the mission of the Church is more or less the same no matter where you are in space and time. A church should not spend too much time developing a mission statement because in themselves they say very little that might not be said of any other church at any other time. Nevertheless, in some cases, developing a mission statement for a church--or for you as an individual--can capture a sense of identity, which can be very significant indeed.

3. So what is the mission of the Church? The Church is the body of Christ. We are God's hands and feet in the world, and the communion of saints which extends to heaven. The mission is actually God's mission rather than ours, and we only participate in it.

There is both a being and a doing dimension to God's church. We are the kingdom community of the Spirit, the collection of all those throughout history in whom the Spirit of Christ has dwelt, the people of God for all eternity. We fellowship. We meet together for worship. Although the Church universal is one, holy, universal, and missional community, the church local is where the word of God is rightly preached, the means of grace are rightly administered, and a community of individuals is rightly ordered.

The mission of the Church is to participate in the mission of God, and the mission of God is nothing less than the reconciliation, restoration, and glorification of the world. The world is alienated from its creator. The image of God is marred in humanity. All have sinned and are lacking the glory that God intended us to have in the creation.

The "Great Commission" of the Church is of course found in Matthew 28:19-20. At its heart, this commission is to "make disciples" by a process of baptizing and teaching. Churches have often reduced their sense of this commission to a shallow form of evangelism, but the grammar of the sentence focuses on making disciples and the bulk of what that means is "teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you."

So the mission of the Church involves going. It involves seeing the world reconciled to God, of which baptism signifies entrance into the people of God. It involves discipleship of that people once they have crossed from death to life. It involves service to its surrounding community and world, since social justice is one of the central teachings of Jesus.

4. All these are part of the mission of the Church: to worship our God, to go and participate in the reconciliation of the world, to disciple the people of God, to serve the needs of others, and to live together in unity and community. Individual churches may focus more on one of these than the others. Individual churches may use language that fits closely with its time, culture, or tradition.

But this is the overall mission of the Church, and the mission statement of a local church will likely present some element or elements of the Church's overall mission in its sense of its local identity and purpose.

Next week: Pastor as Leader 5: Identifying Mission

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