Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mission vs vision

I discussed this before in previous posts, but it's so important it's worth addressing again.  The mission of the church is the same for all churches.  It is found in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.  The church is to be involved in sharing the gospel with people and helping them find faith in God through Jesus Christ.  That is the Great Commission.  The Great Commandment tells us we are to love God with our entire being and our neighbors as ourselves.  That's it.  That's the mission of the church, and it is the same for every church regardless of size.

The vision of the church is how an individual church will carry out the mission.  Because every church is made up of different people with different gifts and located in places with different needs, the vision will be different for every church.  The people who make up your congregation have been given various gifts by God for the purpose of ministry.  They are passionate about different forms of ministry and could care less about other ministries.  At the same time, there are various needs existing in the community where your church is located.  It is where giftedness, passion, and need comes together that God's vision for a church is found, and that's why it will be different for every church.

I often find that the leaders of smaller churches do not like it when I tell them that it might not be God's vision for their church that they have a youth ministry.  Nearly every smaller church I work with tells me they must have a youth ministry because "the youth are the future of the church."  What they are really saying is that they are afraid if they can't get young people into their church the church will soon die.  But, the reality is that some churches do not have people with the gifts and passion needed for an effective youth ministry, and in some cases there are already numerous churches with very successful youth ministries in the community.  Why try to compete with that when you lack the resources to do it well anyway?  There are many other needs existing in every community that your church would have the gifts and passion to meet, and that is where God's vision for your church will be found.

Several years ago I coached a pastor who told me her vision for their small church was to become a healing place for people who had been wounded by churches.  I assured her that if the church she served could make that happen it would not be a small church for long because, unfortunately, there are many people in most communities who have been hurt by the church.  I've also never before or since heard any pastor tell me that was the vision they had for their church.  I know another smaller church that has become a collection site for used clothing that is shipped overseas to mission organizations.  The pastor of that church showed me an entire room in the church that was filled with bags of clothing waiting for shipment.  A third church showed me a building across the street from their church facility that had rows of tables filled with clothing.  In a few days they would open the building for the weekend and people can come in and take all the clothing they need for their families.  This church has volunteers who work for months gathering, sizing, and preparing for this one weekend.  The pastor said that not one piece of clothing will be left by the time they close and begin preparing for the next year.  For many families, this is where the school clothes for their children will come from.

None of these churches have any competition for their ministries from any of the other churches in their communities, and each one of these ministries meet an existing need in their community.  These churches have identified God's vision for their church and are faithfully living it out.  By doing so they are achieving the mission God has for each church.

How can your church best serve your community?  What ministry need exists in your community that your people could address?  If your church does not have a clear vision for ministry, begin to ask God to reveal what that might be, and then pursue it with everything you have.

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