Posted by: ritagone | March 30, 2011

Missions Statement

Christian Associates is in the process of revamping its missions statement, something that many churches and organizations — both non-profit and for profit – should probably do from time to time to make sure they are current.

In a three-hour session with a consultant as to how to effectively create a new statement, we talked about the need for a this statement to be short and precise: Disney’s is “to make people happy.”  Well, there you have it.  Simple enough, easily understood.  Campus Crusade’s mission statement is: “Launching spiritual movements by winning, building, and sending Christ-centered multiplying disciples.”  You can unpack a lot in this statement by Crusade, can’t you?  So a missions statement needs to be well crafted and thought out.

This is not an easy thing to do, believe me.  Three hours of wordsmithing and debating, trying to figure out a short, precise phrase that could capture the essence of what CA does and is, proved that it’s more difficult than you would imagine.  Everyone involved in the meeting had his or her own particular perception and viewpoint as to what should or shouldn’t be included in the statement.  They say the camel is an animal designed by a committee.  Meaning: it’s ugly and awkward and not something that flows with beauty and majesty.  And it probably took a lot of meetings to come up with its design at that!

As an example, we got hung up on whether or not we should be using the word “church” because of all of its negativity over the last decades, or instead use the word “community,” even though that has become such a buzz word today that it hardly has any significant meaning anymore.  And that debate went on for a while; good conversation, true, but no resolution, because there were pros and cons on both sides of just that one tiny aspect of the wordsmithing.  And my own mind went off on that particular rabbit trail – the word “church” and the bad rap that it has gotten.

So since I sat in on that debate, I’ve been considering quite a bit how the word “church” has become so tainted and now carries with it such a negative connotation in so many circles.

In the mornings during my quiet time I’m reading through a wonderful book which reminds me very much of the style of “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis.  This book is “Simply Christian” by N.T. Wright, and it’s one of those books which you could give to a non-believer in the expectation that he or she could start from any belief system or no belief system and be brought to an understanding of what the Christian faith is all about.  Wright writes short chapters and uses a very logical style to build from one solid premise to another through a series of belief statements that takes the reader from broad applications to narrower ones until he presents you with Jesus Christ and His claims to be God in the flesh, dying for mankind’s sins and risen from the dead to reign at the right hand of God the Father.  It is brilliant thinking and clear writing that I find would have convinced me of the claims of Jesus as Messiah if I hadn’t already been convinced of the truth of Jesus Christ (which is what I’ve actually said for 40 years about “Mere Christianity”).

And in his writing, he tackles this profound subject of the church in a way that I found so refreshing, so simple and yet so needed, that I wanted to share a few of the paragraphs of that particular chapter with you in this Rita’s Ramblings.  It’s not the entire chapter, but it will give you a sense of what Wright feels about the church and its mission and ministry:

“I use the word ‘church’ here with a somewhat heavy heart.  I know that for many of my readers that very word will carry the overtones of large, dark buildings, pompous religious pronouncements, false solemnity, and rank hypocrisy.  But there is no easy alternative.  I, too, feel the weight of that negative image.  I battle with it professionally all the time.

But there is another side to it, a side which shows all the signs of the wind and fire, of the bird brooding over the waters and bringing new life.  For many, ‘church’ means just the opposite of that negative image.  It’s a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life.  It’s where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat.  It’s where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for global justice.  It’s where you’ll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptation, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry that purpose out.  It’s where people bring their own small faith and discover, in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  No church is like this all the time.  But a remarkable number of churches are partly like that for quite a lot of the time.

Nor must we forget that it was the church in South Africa which worked and prayed and suffered and struggled so that, when major change happened and apartheid was overthrown and a new freedom came to that land, it came without the massive bloodshed we were all expecting.  It was the church which stayed alive at the heart of the old Communist eastern Europe, and which at the end, with processions of candles and crosses, made it clear that enough was enough.  It is the church which, despite all its follies and failings, is there when it counts in hospitals, schools, prisons, and many other places.  I would rather rehabilitate the word ‘church’ than beat about the bush with long-winded phrases like ‘the family of God’s people’ or ‘all those who believe in and follow Jesus’ or ‘the company of those who, in the power of the Spirit, are bringing God’s new creation to birth.’  But I mean all those things when I say ‘church.’” (pages 123-124)

You know, had N.T. Wright been sitting in that mission statement meeting after the Leadership Summit during the discussion about whether or not to use the word “church” or “community” or some other synonym, I feel sure he would have paraphrased this little section of “Simply Christian” and reminded those of us sitting around the room that sometimes the word “church” isn’t as awful as we deem it to be, that sometimes it deserves to be “rehabilitated,” as he says, and that we often need to stop “beating about the bush” and calling it something other than what the New Testament writers called it, warts and all.

And we’ll get that new missions statement for CA hammered out soon enough.  Oh, everyone may not agree one hundred percent with the wording or the content, but hopefully it will capture what we’re about as we move into the second decade of the 21st century.  You can have a great missions statement and nothing behind it, or you can have a missions statement that is mediocre but a ministry that is thriving and jet-propulsed with momentum.

What we’re looking for in CA is a strong missions statement that is a reflection of the strong ministry behind it.  Now that’s a great combination!  So the work and the wordsmithing goes on, and hopefully the committee crafting the missions statement will bring to the forefront a series of words that captures what CA is all about now and for the future!

No camels wanted here!

Only racehorses!


Regards, Rita

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