Why is the ministry's mission so important? It affects the church in numerous essential ways. Here are nine of them.
The Mission Dictates the Ministry's Direction
Before embarking on a flight, most people want to know where their plane is going. Otherwise, as Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankee catcher, once said, "If you don't know where you're going, you might end up somewhere else." Leaders and their churches must have a direction, and it is the mission that provides that important direction. It answers the directional question, Where are we going? Thus the ministry's mission is directional. It provides a compelling sense of direction, a target for everyone to aim at, and it serves to focus the congregation's energy
Leaders in the Bible demonstrated a strong sense of direction. Moses pursued with a passion his mission to lead Israel out of bondage to the Promised Land (Ex.3:10). The same is true of Joshua (Josh.1:1-5), David (2 Sam. 5:2), Nehemiah (Neh. 2:17), and others. The Savior's mission directed his ministry (Mark 10:45), and Paul was passionate about his direction throughout his ministry (Acts 21:12-14; Rom. 15:20).
The Mission Formulates the Ministry's Function
Besides direction, the mission helps a ministry to formulate or determine its biblical function. It answers the strategic, functional question, What are we supposed to be doing? What function does the organization exist to perform? What is the primary or main thing that God has called us to accomplish? What are we attempting to do for God and our people? Therefore, the mission is an expression of strategic intent. It summarizes and provides the church with its biblical task, and it defines the results that it seeks to obtain.
The Mission Focuses the Ministry's Future
Both the directional and functional questions above address the church's future. That is because the mission, like the church's vision, has everything to do with its future. Though we cannot predict the future (except for biblical prophecy), we can create it, and that is the job of the mission. A clear, biblical mission serves to bring into focus the church's ministry future. The converse is also true: no mission, no future.
In addition, by focusing on the future, the mission helps the ministry not to live in and focus on the past. Paul put his past behind him and pushed forward to experience Christ. In Philippians 3:13-14, he writes, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." We must learn from the past but not live in the past.
The Mission Provides a Guideline for Decision Making
Every day church leaders have to make decisions. It comes with the ministry territory. A dynamic mission or intent not only focuses the church's future, it sets important boundaries. It guides what the church will and will not attempt. It provides direction for when to say yes and when to say no. Mission is to the ministry what a rudder is to a ship, a compass to a navigator, a template to a machinist. It provides a framework for critical thinking, a standard or criterion for all decision making.
Sincere (and sometimes not so sincere) people often approach a church board or pastor with suggestions for new areas of ministry that could potentially lead the church away from its divine direction. However, a clear, shared mission will protect the pastor and the board from involvement in numerous tangential activities. Their response can be, "Thanks so much for your interest, but that would lead us away from our mission."