Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.
A few summers ago, Alice spent her summer as an intern
with one of the biggest corporations in the United States.
On her first day on the job, she was called into human resources
And given a piece of paper, on which was written
The mission statement of the company.
“Read it,” said her boss.
“If you have any questions about the statement,
I’ll be happy to answer them.
You are then asked to sign the statement, here,
(he said, pointing at the signature line)
And from this day forward,
If you observe any behavior in this company
That is CONTRARY to our statement of mission—
–you are to call me directly
so that we can discuss it.
We intend to run this company
On the basis of this statement of mission.”
Mission Statements are all the rage.
“Mission” may have started with faith,
but now EVERYBODY else—
–businesses, colleges, even governmental agencies—
–have gotten into the act of formulating statements of mission.
They attempt to state, in a succinct way, the purpose of the organization.
You know the old saying, from Alice in Wonderland
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”[i]
Just as everybody else is doing mission statements,
It’s gotten increasingly UNCOMFORTABLE for churches
To do this.
Well, maybe we have internalized the sweet thought that, in America,
Religion is a PRIVATE matter—even in church—
–and the thought of having to share a VISION, as a community, as a group…
…makes us QUESY and CONFUSED…
In an essay a few years ago,
Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, now a professor at Indiana University,
Noted the differences between “religion” in our country
And how it is practiced elsewhere:
“Religion is understood…by most Americans to be individual, chosen,
private, believed, and separate from all other
institutions and identities—even (from) churches.
But, for most of the rest of the world,
Religion is communal, given, public, enacted,
And intertwined with other institutions and identities.”[ii]
Sharing a VISION of mission and faith?
Intrude on our individualism
Or my own individual “spiritual path”?
…if that doesn’t make you squirm a little bit,
just wait until you hear what Jesus has in mind…
After Jesus had been raised from the dead,
he appeared to the apostles during 40 days.
We have been living through those 40 days of Easter since Early April…
As those 40 days end, and as the risen Christ prepares to leave these disciples,
In the first chapter of Acts,
Jesus gives the church our statement of mission.
I honestly don’t know what to make of Jesus vanishing into a cloud
as he ascended to heaven.
But I am struck with what Jesus said—right before,
and what the disciples were told, right after, after Jesus left them.”
“You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.”
That’s the LAST thing Jesus said to his disciples.
And, while the disciples are still staring into thin air
trying to figure out what happened, a messenger from God reproves them:
“Why do you stand there, looking up into the sky?”
Between those two jarring statements…is the MISSION of our life. [Read more…]