Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mission Creep and the Confusion of the Church

            This week I received a phone call from a lady wondering if I could send someone from the church’s Yard Mowing Team over to her place to cut her grass. She was surprised to discover we did not have a Yard Mowing Team and that we would not be sending anyone over. She informed me that her church had such a team (and I wondered to myself, “Why didn’t she call them, then?”). By the way, while this was the first time I have been asked about the Yard Mowing Team, it is a weekly occurrence for people to call the church asking us to do any number of things that have nothing to do with the mission of the church.

            Mission creep is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs. The phrase began circulating in 1993 in articles dealing with military operations, but since the reality of mission creep is familiar to anyone involved in any organization, it quickly spread to discussions in other fields. The church could be the poster child for Mission Creep!

            Here is Jesus’ statement of the mission of his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV) That is a concise mission statement that allows little room for mission creep. But somehow between the mission statement and the actual practice of the church, there is a large amount of mission creep!  

            The gap between statement and practice, where mission creep spreads like wildfire, got me to thinking about what our mission statement might be if we based it, not on what Jesus told us to do, but on what we are actually doing. Here are some mission creep inspired Mission Statements: 

·         This church exists to keep the bills paid and the doors open.

·         The mission of this church is to provide activities for our members and any of their friends who might be interested in attending.

·         The purpose of the church is to promote a particular social and political agenda (you pick which one).

·         The mission of this church is to oppose certain sins (and other things we don’t like).

·         Our church seeks to be all things, to all people, in all places, at all times.

            While all of the above may have some merit, they cannot be replacements for the mission of the church as given by Jesus. When they are elevated to replacement status, we are not in danger of experiencing mission creep, we are neck deep in it! The only way out is to return to the mission given by Jesus. That mission will remove confusion (and inactivity) and position the church to be a tool in the hand of Jesus to show his love to a broken and needy world.

           Because Jesus has all authority, and he will be with us all the time, we can confidently go and make disciples! That is the mission of the unconfused church.

- Kenny Payne

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