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Mission Study:

Finding God’s will for His Congregation

Why did God place your congregation with your heritage where you are today with the neighbors who surround you? If your pastor(s), leaders and members can answer that question and live out that answer several things will happen:

  1. Ministry decisions will come easier.
  2. Conflict within the congregation will decrease.
  3. Choosing a "next pastor" for your church will become a quest for God’s heart rather than a competition to see who gets "what I want in a pastor".

The Principles
A Mission Study discovers God’s will for a congregation based on several principles:

  • Every congregation is God’s congregation. Since Jesus is Lord, every congregation belongs to God. As such, what matters most is what God wants His congregation to accomplish for him. Congregation’s need to unite under His will.
  • God’s will can be seen in his design. Since “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1st Corinthians 12:18) we can tell what he wants a congregation to accomplish by looking at the gifts (abilities, passions, heritage, location, etc.) that God has placed in His congregation and its members.
  • God’s mission for His church matches His design with those outside the church around you. God has designed your church to reach people for Jesus; no other church in your area can reach those people as effectively. If this were not true, then your church would be unnecessary. Some other church could do your job. But God has created your church so that you could bring the Good News of Jesus like none other.
  • God’s mission for His church is unique. No church has an “off-the-shelf” mission statement; nor can we substitute “slogans” which say no more than “We are a church” or “We obey the Great Commission”. An effective Mission Statement details who God has made us, who God has sent us to seek, and how he has equipped us to seek them. (For more about this, see Writing Effective Mission Statements.)
  • God’s mission necessitates effective implementation plans Knowing God’s mission for His congregation is not the same as accomplishing it. As my father used to say:

    If you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it.

    Without a thoughtfully crafted plan of action any congregation falls back into “what we've always done&rdquo. If you've been effective in achieving God’s mission, and nothing has changed in the life of your congregation (like a pastor leaving), then that is fine. Otherwise a plan will be needed to move your ministry closer to God’s mission for His congregation.

  • Match the pastor you need to God’s mission, not the mission to the pastor you get. If you are seeking a new minister for your church, you need to seek one with the skills and experience that match the mission God wants you to accomplish. Not all pastors are alike and using the Mission Study you can know more clearly how to choose among many otherwise fine candidates.

The Process
In a Mission Study the congregation explores God’s design for them, guided by a coach/facilitator, usually your Specialized Interim Minister (SIM). In this journey several methods can be used to reach the goal. I am trained in all three:

  1. A Traditional Mission Study: This is best for a large church where a long-term (12 years or more) successful pastor has departed. It moves the congregation from its heritage (placing the Beloved Former Pastor’ ministry in perspective) through exploring its identity without that pastor and its relationship to the surrounding community to bring it to understand its continuing and renewed mission for God.
  2. Appreciative Inquiry: A congregation experiencing significant conflict would be well advised to use this process. It employs the congregation’s memories of when God’s church effectively followed His mission for them along with their imagination of how such effectiveness could be recreated. The process explores all the elements found above from a positive, life-giving perspective and brings all members to follow those dreams into agreement of God's will for His congregation is. (For more about this see Appreciative Inquiry. You may also find Resolving Conflict useful.)
  3. Natural Church Development centered Interim: A congregation which has aged or declined significantly over the last few years, or a church simply looking to become more effective for God, will find Natural Church Development [NCD] an effective tool for a long-term turn-around. NCD uses proven universal principals of church health to help a church focus its energies where they will have the greatest effect. (For more about this, see NCD-centered Interim Ministry.)

While each of these processes has value in itself, none of them is truly exclusive and can be used together if your particular situation calls for it.

The Congregation’s Responsibility
The work of the Mission Study does not fall primarily on the coach/facilitator. The true experts on God's work in the congregation is the congregation. They will need to participate in, and own, the Mission Study process. Without substantial participation by the congregation no one can help you discern God’s will for His congregation. Furthermore, the congregation will own the results more readily if the process is lead by friends and fellow members. The results will be what “we” found together, rather than what a stranger told us. (For more about this, see Your Responsibility in an On-site Interim and the Interim Ministry Team.)