Local churches cannot rely solely on asking who is there every Sunday to proof its importance. We can't just say "we're on a mission from God" and hope everyone else accepts our version of who we are. There has to be another way to identify the working out of God’s purposes in a church. Attempts have been made in recent years to find organizational purpose through the creation of mission statements. Patrick Hull at Forbes.com offers the following four questions to help small businesses (and churches) identify their missions:
Churches have followed the business world, used similar questions, and created written platforms about their common purpose and activities. A familiar example of a local church mission statement is found at Saddleback Community Church in Orange County, California. Their mission statement is "to provide a place where depressed, the hurting, and hopeless can come and find help. To be a place of family, community, and hope” by incorporating the P.E.A.C.E plan to plant churches that promote reconciliation, equip servant leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation. Each new member follows a four-track process of recognizing this purpose individually through becoming a member, moving into maturity, finding a ministry, and entering into mission in the local context, usually identified as moving around a baseball diamond.
Micah 6:8 to characterizes the purpose of Christian life together as UP-IN-OUT. According to John P. Chandler of the SpenceNetwork.net, it can mean something like this:
"'Walk humbly' – our relationship Up toward God, who desires from us passionate spirituality.
'Love kindness' – our relationships In toward others we know and love, demonstrated in radical community; and
'Do justice' – our relationship Out to the world, characterized by a missionary zeal"
A denominational application of stating organizational purpose through a mission statement is found in the Church of the Nazarene: “To make Christ-like disciples in the nations.” This mission statement flows from the core values of being Christian, Holiness and Missional. In each of these examples, the mission statements can be tested biblically and can be contextually expressed without diluting the purpose. The resulting purpose can now be used to evaluate how well members, local churches, associated groups like districts, publications, educators, and mission teams are accomplishing the organization’s purpose.
Theologically, the Church has a task in that it is sent by God into the world for His purposes. The question remains: how is this mission evaluated? There needs to be an objective, a target, before any activity can be evaluated. The missio Dei, gathered from the words of missiologist David Bosch, is the “privileged participation” of the church as it obediently strives to join God in his self-revelation to the world (Transforming Mission, 2011, p. 10). God is already present and at work in the most isolated and alienated places on earth. The task of the disciple is simply to join God where He already is. Jesus was the first one initiated into the incarnational task followed by those believing in Him. The words of Jesus speak of this missional purpose: “As you [the Father] sent me into the world,” Jesus said. “I have sent them.” (John 17:18 NIV). These words of Jesus are bracketed in verses 17 and 19 by the proclamation of the powerful work of God in forming those who are sent out. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth . . . For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (NIV) The disciples as Christ’s body in the world become a holy offering, set apart by God for His work, and in many ways become the sacramental presence of Christ. This then is the missional calling of the church: To be very God’s presence in the world and carry out His work there.
Therefore, the Church cannot be content to tabulate attendance numbers to evaluate its impact within the larger community. There is a need to count what really matters. There is something to be said for a biblically based, contextually-centered mission statement. Of course, this is only a first step in identifying “what really matters.” The second step is to decide exactly what to count.
Next, Counting What Really Matters, Part 4 in blog series on Evaluating the Missional Impact of the Church: Part 1 - What Really Counts? & Part 2 - Nickels & Noses