Up until very recently, I was in pastoral ministry. I pastored a micro-church in the Ottawa Valley. (For the unfamiliar micro churches are essentially the opposite of mega churches. Definitions vary, but generally, churches that have 50 or fewer in weekly attendance can be considered micro.) It was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Some of it was great, some of it was…not. Now, however, at the end of my time there, I wanted to take some time and share some thoughts on the experience.
What is a church? Why do churches exist? In a word, what is your mission? The mission of “The Church” is simple (if difficult) and found in Matthew 28:16-20: Preach (proclaim) the Gospel (good news) and make disciples (not just converts) of Jesus. That’s every church. I firmly believe that if that’s not the primary mission of your church, something is fundamentally amiss within your church.
But individual, local churches can have more than one mission.
I’ll back up, let me explain.
When we talk about “The Church” with capitals like that, we are talking about all Christians around the world. When we talk about the church, or the local church, we’re talking about individual congregations. The Church has one mission, we call it the Great Commission, but your church is on a mission as well under the umbrella of that commission. For example, not every church is good at reaching and ministering to young people, and not every church caters to the elderly very well. Healthy churches will have people from across the spectrum of course, but we all have our niches. Carey Nieuwhof wrote a great piece on this here.
Carey’s point here is to play to our strengths. But mission is about much more than just that. Mission is what your church is about. It’s about what YOUR church wants to accomplish within your own four walls, your neighbourhood, your city, your province, your country, your nation, and your world.
Mission is important.
I’ve always known that mission is of utmost importance within the life of the church. I even know how important it is to communicate mission and vision. I EVEN know how important it is to have broad buy-in from the rest of the church. There was, however, one thing I overlooked.
That’s right. The “cultural engagement is critically important” and “know your audience” guy made a mistake on engaging culture. A big mistake. I’m a city guy. I’m a wired guy. All of the churches I ever attended were churches that were in an urban, city context. It’s all I knew. Things that work in the city don’t tend to work in rural churches. That’s a lesson I learned pretty early on. We tried many things that likely might have had a better impact in an urban or even suburban context. Movie night discussion groups don’t work in a country context.
But, do you know what does work? Service projects. It sounds so simple (because it is) and it seems to be working. My only regrets about this plan are that 1) It wasn’t my idea. And 2) It started too late.
One of the deacons in our church had the brilliant idea to gather the men of the church on Saturdays and work on projects. Projects for people. Painting a basement? We’ll help. Organizing a garage? What can we do? Building a fence? What time do you need us there? The plan, as I understand it, is to start small with projects for people within the church, and then, as the guys get a hang of it, expand out into the community, serving all the people in the community. I ask you, how amazing an idea is that? Especially for a church that has historically struggled with reaching out into the community? I hope it works. I pray it’s incredibly fruitful for them.
Mission is important. But understanding the mission of your church is even more important. It’s not just important for pastors, it’s important for all of us, when choosing a new church, to ask the question of not only theology, but of mission. It’s not even a hard question to ask. “What’s this church’s mission?” And “How can I, as a member, take part in and support the mission?”