Lecture 8: Mission and Vision
Mission is the broad philosophical statement of why your organization exists. It states the purpose of your organization and defines your objectives. A vision is the ability to see into the future and articulate a mental picture of what you want your organization to do. The mission gives you the framework. The vision is changeable but always within the framework of the mission.
A. Mission Statement:
Leadership begins with building a base definition with values and acquiring skills, but a leader must know where he is going. I want to distinguish between mission and visions as we often get them confused, even using them in the same language. A mission statement is broader than a vision. It is often created to fill a need. First, the mission is a broad statement of why we are here; it is what defines our existence. This holds up the heart of the organization. John 20:31 says that these things are written so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ. That was John’s mission in writing the book. When you see a clear mission statement, it is one of the few places in Scripture where the writer gives us the clear mission of why he did what he did. So, everything that John writes has to go back to that statement. For example, every chapter in one sense every chapter in the Book of John is a conversation. In John chapter 1, he has a conversation with Nathanial and then in John chapter 2, he has a conversation with his mother at the wedding. Then in John 3, he has a conversation with Nicodemus and in John chapter 4, he has a conversation with the woman at the well. In John 5, it is with the paralytic; John 6, it is with the crowd. Of the Gospels, the Book of John is the most mysterious. Throughout the chapters, Jesus is moving from one conversation to another. John would say that each conversation was accumulated and he has written his book around those conversations. If each conversation is to fulfill the purpose of the book, it is so that we might believe. He has a conversation with the woman at the well so that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ. So, every conversation is there to convince the reader that Jesus is the Christ. So, we see that everything has to fall under the stated mission.
The Village Church exists to worship God, teach the Scriptures, care for one another and proclaim the Gospel. Our mission isn’t necessarily what people want or expect, but it comes proactively from God. If we are carrying out the mission, then everything we do needs to fit with one of those four points. So, a purpose keeps you focused and the leader’s role is to make sure that we stay on mission. The churches’ mission fills a need; we have a lost world. What was Jesus’ mission? Jesus came for this purpose, ultimately it was to glorify the Father and that is ultimately our mission. Therefore, in one sense everybody in this room shares the same mission, but we all have a different vision. Rick Warren would say that without a mission, you have no foundation and no motivation. It is the compass. The mission is the purpose of the organization; it is what defines our objectives. It is the broad statement of why we are here. The mission is the broadest piece. Most everything that I read in regards to leadership points to mission as this broad philosophical statement. The vision particularizes the mission. Every church that honors the Lord Jesus, that has the Word of God as its authority, has the same mission. We don’t have a different mission than other churches that honors the Lord as the Word of God as its authority or any Christ centered church, but every church should have a different vision. This is having a different dream. God gives us each a vision as to where we are going with our lives. So, we all share the same mission and not necessarily the same vision. As such, we get something more static and less fluid. When you move to vision, it becomes a little more fluid, the vision can change. Our vision often changes; it depends on the direction and work we are doing at the time. Often, when a new leader comes, they will have their own vision. And then in another layer, strategies become more fluid. What might be a good strategy today, may not work tomorrow. Then we have objectives; your operational plan which can change every week or every month. As you move down, things get more and more fluid. Note that the mission for the church isn’t something that we develop ourselves. The mission is already mandated. God gave the church the mission. Even though the mission doesn’t change, it may be different in the way we communicate it or how it place it within language. Sometimes in regards to mission, there is an implication that there are different missions, but the reality is that we are all on mission.
Imagine you are leading an organization that has no mission. That would be difficult because you would not know what the organization is actually doing. So, whatever you lead or involved in an organization, it is really important to know what the mission is. The key elements of a mission statement, some of the critical things that need to be asked are whether it is focused or not. A mission statement should not be a five page document. A mission statement should be focused and inspiring and concise and memorable. Other examples of mission statements include: our mission is to make people who are away from home to feel at home. This is the mission statement of the Marriott. This is concise and certainly focused and somewhat inspiring. If we were part of the management team at Marriot, this would be our mission and everything would have to flow out of that. So, what would we do to make people feel at home? What are the things that make people feel at home? What about a fireplace in the waiting area and a coffee table, for example? We could change the lighting from an institutional style to something more like a home environment. If this is our mission, what are the rooms going to look like? Perhaps the smell of a dog! (Everybody laughs over this.) The room could have flowers, a very nice and comfortable bed with a correct room temperature. Also, you would need internet access. So once you establish your mission then your decision making needs to flow around that mission.
Other examples: Merck Pharmaceutical says that they are in the business of preserving and improving human life. Willow Creek’s mission statement is to change irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus. This is certainly focused and also inspiring, concise and memorable. They have developed their services around people who are seeking God. Another churches’ strategy may be to build up people to reach a lost world. Some churches are built around reaching people to come and hear the Gospel. The statement of Walt Disney is to make people happy. If that is the mission of the organization and you are working at Disney Land and if you are not about making people happy, you have the wrong job. So, Disney creates a world in which to make people happy. To do this, his strategy was to create theme or amusement parks. Another strategy was doing animation and cartoons for television. The statement is certainly easy to remember as it is very concise and it has obviously worked because they have been very successful. For Niki; they say that their mission is to bring innovation and inspiration to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, then you are an athlete.
A mission is for the purpose of carrying out the role of leadership. Thus, the role of leadership is to continually call the organization back to mission; to keep reminding people why you are here. That calling involves communicating it until it becomes redundant, until it is learned. Ideally what we want to be is a church body where members know the mission and why we are here. So, the leader’s role is to communicate it, repeat it and see that it transcends generations to be the organizing principle. Whenever the staff and I go on a retreat, we start with the mission because everything has to go back to that mission statement. The mission of glorifying God doesn’t necessarily fill a need because God doesn’t need glorification.
This is different than mission. Vision is an overused word, first of all. Part of it is the ability to see into the future. It is the ability to look from the mountain top and see where history has been and where it is headed. It is not the same thing as a prediction, but it is the ability to see out into the future. So, how does one see out into the future? There is the Janus effect and this says that the farther you can see into the past, the farther you can see out into the future. Part of the way in seeing into the future is to become more of a student of history. In regards to worship, for example, the best way to see how it will go into the future is to see where it has come from. I called twelve of the largest churches in the Portland area asking them what their mission was and also what their vision was. Eleven out of the twelve had no vision; they had mission statements. The only church that did had just added adjectives to their mission statement. So, one of the definitions is the ability to see into the future. Another phrase that I like to use is a mental picture like that of your own life. What do you see for your own life? What do you see five years from now? For a vision to be realistic, it has to have credibility. It can’t be a pie in the sky! And it has to be driven by faith, something that is bigger than us. It has got to be attractive and it has to be something that fulfills a dream. Any great visionary that comes along sees something that is bold and audacious; we should have this in our own life and it shouldn’t be nebulous. One such vision is to be a missionary in Africa or another place. Another such vision could be a write a book on Proverbs because it is a difficult book to understand. Why is it important to have a vision? Simply to have some direction to our lives, otherwise we may end up just existing. A vision is a pointer.
What was Walt Disney’s vision? He wanted to take something and put it into animated form which eventually became cartoons. That was part of his dream to make a full length animated cartoon. Henry Ford’s vision was to make a motor car large enough for a family and small enough for an individual and a price lower enough to be affordable. And he accomplished his vision. John F. Kennedy had a vision in 1960 to put a man on the moon within a decade. So, everything turned to accomplish that vision. One of my favorites is Sony; Sony had a vision that anything that was purchased from Japan would become highly respectable. Sony had this vision back in the 50s because back then Japanese products were not trusted. What was Paul’s vision? His vision was to reach the gentiles; he wanted to go all the way to Spain. He was driven by this vision that God gave him that took him to the edge of the world. In one sense, visionaries lived their lives backward. They looked at that point and had a picture and worked backward to figure out how to get there. Whatever choices we make, it should be toward a particular vision. This changes over time as we go through our journey. What is my vision as I get closer to retirement? Often those in retirement are reactive; it is whatever the day throws at them. So what is the difference between a mission and a vision? The vision flows out of the mission or it particularizes the mission.
The mission is a board generic definition of our objectives. It is the clarification of the specific direction. The mission is trying to answer the question why. The vision is trying to answer the question where. When we get to the strategy, we start asking the how. The vision at the Village Church is instead of disconnection, there is radical connection. We have identified five key connect points. Our vision is where failure connects with gifts which connect with opportunities and where emptiness connects with fullness. It is where culture connects with unity and where Christ connects with the world. We put it under this tag in order to remember it. Ten years from now, we might have a different vision. The importance of this determines where we put our resources. It determines who we hire and what our strategies are. A vision is a picture of what God is calling us to do. The question is how one gains a vision. Part of the task is in order to get a vision, we need time out. I don’t think God gives you a vision in a day to day busy schedule. There has got to be a sense of going to the mountain like Moses did with the Ten Commandments. A leader cannot delegate a vision to someone; it really has to flow from the leader. On the mountain, we reflect on a number of things. I think visions grow in quietness. We have to understand the past as we already mentioned and also the present. We have to read the signs of the times and see the world as it is. Evangelical Recession by Dickerson challenges us to rethink where we are going. You see what is and who we are and the journey we are on. People who have been great visionaries are what they do. Nehemiah had a vision to build the wall which looked at the context and abilities and what he was good at and what you are not good at. It has to also flow out of you passion. A vision isn’t something that is merely analytical or calculated. There has to be some emotional, passionate and intuitive about it. It has to be something that will move us at the deepest level. Visions take a lot of energy. You want something that is just flowing out because of your passion for it. It also has to reflect our core values and our ideology of what we stand for. It has to reflect our world view. It takes into account our goals, what we aspect to become, what you hope for your life. It certainly has to reflect God’s will, what we sense God has for us to do and what we believe what we were made for.
I lot of people don’t come up with a vision for their life and a lot of them just drift along. A vision is a very intentional endeavor. A big part of that is to lay ourselves before God acknowledging that he only knows the answer to that question. The vision entails what God has called me to and I will not be faithful unless I do it. Some people have radical experiences with God; for example Bill Bright with Campus Crusade. One night he was studying for a Greek Exam and was taken into another realm where he saw the world, a vision that God gave him. Out of that came Campus Crusade to reach college students with the Gospel. I can relate to that as I have had late night experiences studying for Greek exams and funny things to happen! So Nehemiah gained a vision of a rebuilt wall. God gave Abraham a vision for a great nation. Moses gained a vision of a free nation and a redeemed people. God gave Peter a vision for the lost. God does this; he comes along like with John and with Nathanial and elevates Nathanial whole world view to see some far bigger than he could ever see. Bill McCartney of Promises Keepers had a vision of a stadium of Godly men coming to repentance. That led to Promises Keepers. Francis Shaffer went for a long walk and captured a vision in Europe to reach wondering intellectuals who were lost and that became his vision. Louis Palou was reading John 14:12 which says, ‘when I leave, greater things will you do.’ He took that seriously and ever sense, he has let God do greater things. These are people who have sensed a divine mandate. Most of us will not have that dramatic encounter but none-the-less I do find that God does speak to us when we take time to rest, or quietness in going to the mountain. In such, we can be still long enough to hear the Spirit of God say something in our lives.
Visions also come out of one’s discontent. In other words, you are going along in life and there is something that becomes difficult; there is something you see and you realize that it isn’t right. A classic illustration of Scripture is Nehemiah. He going along fine, a cup bearer to the king and he is busy at that. But then he gets this report; Jerusalem is a mess, the walls are torn down and he can no longer think straight and for months he dwells on it. Bill Highbush gave a great talk years back about how to find your vision. Ask yourself this question, ‘what wrecks you?’ A big part of my vision in life has been to see the church flourish because what has wrecked me so much is the fact that I grew up in a dead church and I have seen so many dead churches. It just kills me when people say bad things about the institutional church because this is God’s church. It shouldn’t be that way. I look back that that is what I have given my life to for thirty years. What is it that drives you; it wrecks you? Sometimes when people are on a mission journey, they see something that they can’t get out of their mind. I think that is a very helpful guide.
Going to the mountain also involves imagination. It begins with imaging the ideal and maximizing the resources. It is thinking a little about the impossible. Is it something extraordinary? It is the kind of thing that drives us to our knees. It is what stirs our imagination. That verse in Ephesians 3:20-21: now to him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all we ask or think according to the power working within us. Now, that is a vision for us! This is the kind of verse that helps fuel our faith. We have to be careful for we can set ourselves up for deep disappointment. There is tension in being a visionary and being imaginative having a certain amount of realization as well. It should be something that we could never get there apart from God; it should be far bigger than ourselves. This might be more of a strategy; it may not be the end point. I would also use purpose and mission interchangeably, but I would not use mission and vision interchangeably as people often do. They are two very different things. The vision isn’t something that everybody waits for like waiting on Moses to come down from the mountain. The leader has to be clear and yet at the same time, it has to be a very collaborative effort. It is not like you would have a passive church that says that they are waiting for Moses to come back, we don’t know where we are going.