In Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells us that
We are Gods handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
This applies, not only to individual believers, but also to churches. Indeed, if we read that
verse carefully, we find that we (plural) are Gods
handiwork (singular). We together have been crafted by God to do
good works which he has prepared for us together to do.
Our churches have a task to complete for God.
How do we find out what it is?
First we need to recognize that Jesus has only
one task for the church:
[apprentices of Jesus life and ministry]
[we approach them out there]
[enfolding them into the life and love of the church]
training them to obey all I have commanded you
[transformed lives, not just true beliefs]
Your Church is unique. Like individual believers, God has made ever church unique.
God has not designed every church to be equally qualified to reach every person.
At the most obvious level, a church in which no one
speaks Spanish will not likely be used by God to reach into a Spanish-speaking community.
What may be less obvious is that a church with a very high culture worship will be able to reach
some people that one with a more rockin service won be able to reach, and
vice versa. A church filled with blue-collar laborers might be able to enfold the local
college professors. Its more likely they will most easily be going into the
lives of others like themselves.
Therefore, Gods mission for your church is unique. If your
mission statement (or
stated mission ideas) can fit any church in your community
(or worse, in the whole world) it misses the mark.
No other church can do exactly what God has called your church to do in the manner Hes
called you to do it. You are not a clone or a generic church. You are Gods workmanship
created in Christ Jesus to do the work God has prepared in advance for you to do.
We can understand Gods mission from Gods design. I am a knife snob. In
my kitchen is a good set of knives. Each knife has its purpose and you can see that purpose
in how it has been crafted. A paring knife is short and doesn't have serrations and
therefore is designed to cut hard fruit and vegetables. A utility knife has serrations, and
therefore can be used on my beloved tomatoes. Never use a chefs knife to cut bread
and you cant use a bread knife to chop onions. The characteristics of the knife
determine its use.
God designed your church for a particular purpose. God has placed the parts in the
body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (1st Corinthians
12:18) The member of your church display Gods design for your mission.
- What are their gifts? A musically gifted congregation has a different mission than
a tone-deaf and care-giving one. I have heard of a very successful church whose pastor
very poorly and it didn't matter because their church had a powerful gift of service. The
particular gifts that dominate your church will show you one aspect of Gods design
for your mission. Helping your members discover, affirm and develop their giftedness needs
to be an ongoing process of mission discovery for your church.
- What are their abilities? One church in Chico, CA developed a very successful
outreach based on the fly fishing (and flytying) abilities of one member
who formed an evangelistic fly fishing club in the church. Having a cadre of gear
heads in your church may indicate an opening in helping the poor acquire
reliable automobiles as a way of introducing the love of Jesus to them. Only a church with
several people who know American sign language have a calling to the deaf.
- What are their experiences? No one understands war veterans like war
veterans. If you want to minister to alcoholics and addicts, it helps to have
people recovering from those addictions in your congregation. Many people in your
congregation with multiple college degrees make you more likely to be called to
- What are their passions? An older member of one of my congregations
passionately loved 3 things: bicycle riding, talking and eating donuts. As a
consequence he was my best ministry to shut-ins. You had better love motorcylces
if you want to reach out to bikers. And many churches lack a passion for the
mentally challenged and so do not make these people a priority. God will give your
congregation a passion for those he wants to reach.
Now, obviously, this mission design will change over time. However, if you are seeking
a new pastor for this time you will do better to choose one who matches Gods
design for your mission. Otherwise, you will have a pastor inclined to lead you into
ministry you are not capable of nor interested in. That is a recipe for conflict.
But dont stope a phase 1. Go on to