You’re the pastor. They want you to lead them this off plateau. You’ve tried everything but nothing’s worked.

Where do you turn?

You’ve got a shelf filled with dusty three-ring binders from conferences you attended looking for help. You’ve got a stack of dog-eared workbooks you’ve ransacked looking for answers. You’ve got a metastasizing collection of how-to books by gurus and rock star pastors.

All you’ve got to show for years of hard work, endless hours of study and thousands of dollars spent on conferences is a discouraged church and your own feelings of defeat. Discontent is beginning to rear its ugly head

Now what?

Go back to the beginning.

Revisit “Church Ministry 101.” You must because you’re directionless and bewildered. Why? Because your thinking about pastoral ministry is off the rails. Return to the station. Get back on track and jump on the only ride that will never run off its rails.

That ride is a biblically solid mission and a wisely developed mission.

Why start over?

Because a firm grasp on mission and a clear sense of vision are hallmark distinctions between those who lead vigorous churches and those who don’t.

New research shows that there is a significant and measurable difference in “communicating the church’s vision with clarity and passion” between pastors.1 Those who pound the vision lead missionally effective churches. Those who don’t, don’t.

In our work as intentional interim pastors, trainers and coaches, my colleagues and I have seen the trouble that arises when pastors don’t pay continual attention to the mission and when they fail keep the congregation mindful of the vision.

  • Useless metrics. A church with no mission and vision can’t measure progress. Tracking nickels and noses might tell you that you’re doing things right but they can’t tell you if you’re doing the right things.
  • Illusion. Pastors and churches will fool themselves into believing that the results they see are evidence of legitimate ministry success.
  • Missed opportunities. There’s no dispassionate way to embrace or decline new ministry opportunities.
  • Wasted resources. How do you decide how to resource (money, people, place) existing ministries?
  • Consumer anarchy. Members will assign their personal agendas to the church when pastors and church leaders don’t push the mission and pound the vision. Paralysis and conflict lie on the path people walk if they see the church as their vendor of choice for religious goods and services.
  • Discouraged church. There’s an 85% chance (or greater) that a church without mission and vision will be stagnant or declining. You don’t think that decades of treading water leads to discouragement?
  • Defeated pastors. That’s why you’re still reading. You’re not seeing any progress in spite of everything you’ve tried. The panaceas haven’t panned out. The workshops haven’t worked out. The conferences haven’t produced anything of consequence.

That’s what happens when pastors lack a firm grasp on mission and a clear sense of vision.

But you can turn those nasty results around. Look at what happens when you state them in positive terms.

  • Would you like to have measurable progress that actually means something?
  • Would you like to know that your results, no matter how meager they may seem, prove you’re moving in the right direction?
  • Would you like to make effective decisions on ministry opportunities?
  • Would you like to make wise use of your resources?
  • Would you like an energized church filled with motivate people who joyfully sacrifice and serve?
  • Would you like that deep sense of fulfillment and that sense of well-being that comes from being certain that you’re moving in the right direction, regardless of what’s going on around you?

If you’d like to see this in your church and your ministry then go back to the beginning. Grab hold of mission. Nail down vision. Learn how to lead for the long haul.

You’ve heard it before; “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

That’s true as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough. That quotation needs refining. It’s probably more accurate to say that biblical leadership rises and falls on pushing the mission and pounding the vision.

A new series: Mission and Vision for Bewildered Pastors

I want to help you reconnect with God’s mission for your church. I’d like to coach you through the process of discerning a wise vision for your ministry.

This post is actually the first in a series designed for the bewildered pastor who doesn’t have any place else to go. Over the next several months I’ll be rolling out an online course, one post at a time, to help you get back on track.

Let’s close this one up with two definitions we’ll be using throughout the rest of the series.

Mission is universal

A mission statement is a short declarative sentence that answers one question: “Why are we here?” or “What this church’s purpose?”

Mission is the same from one Bible centered and theologically conservative church to the next. This is becaus mission is given by God. Every church uses its own vocabulary, but their mission statements will be interchangeable. They will revolve around a handful of New Testament texts:

  • Matthew 28:19-20
  • Mark 16:15-16
  • Luke 24:47
  • John 15:16

A biblically valid mission statement will include three elements:

  1. Go to those who haven’t heard or believed with the gospel
  2. Baptize those who believe it
  3. Nurture the baptized to spiritual maturity

Vision is unique, contextual and provisional

A vision statement flows from the intersection of three datasets: a careful understanding of God’s mission in the world, a careful assessment of the church’s resources, and an accurate evaluation of the needs and opportunities presented in the local community.

The vision statement is a brief exposition that conveys how this church will use these resources in this community to fulfill its mission at this time.

Up Next

Mission begins with God’s work in the creation narratives.

  1. Aubrey Malphurs and Gordon Penfold, Re:Vision (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Books, 2014), 95, 116. â†©