My church is currently going through a strategic planning initiative, wherein our senior pastor has laid down the big picture vision for the next 5 years, drafted a preliminary mission statement and laid down specific objectives, strategies & action plans for achieving them. The plan is ambitious, and includes producing a new church plant every 2 years, starting with one we've already got in the works scheduled for March '05. Since I only came on board a few months ago, I'm not really in much of a position to know if we've actually got the momentum & drive to do this kind of thing. From what they've told me, the growth at our current site hasn't been astronomical, so I'm honestly a bit dubious about 3 new church plants that are set to replicate the model we've got going here. There will be some variations, to be sure, but as of right now, it sounds like this current one is going to be very similar. Anyways, each pastor has been charged with coming up with a similar strategic plan for our specific ministries. After we've done ours, we'll go through another round of planning with the volunteer ministry leaders.
The draft mission statement we have is "Helping people find their way to God." This may be adjusted some in the future, but the basic gist of it will not change since we are a "seeker-sensitive" church. I came from a volunteer position in a similar church, so I am not surprised by this kind of focus. But I've come to realize something; I wasn't doing seeker ministry in my previous church. I was doing "believers" ministry, with only a few exceptions. The college Bible study I lead was entirely focused on believers, though there were non-believers who came and eventually came to Christ. The small group I lead was made up of non-believers, but it wasn't seeker-sensitive in the least. I tried to challenge those kids on a regular basis with faith, not with stuff I thought might make church more palatable to them. And within the youth group as a whole, the relationships I had were mostly with those kids who were already Christian. The fact of the matter is this; I am not cut out for seeker-sensitive ministry. I think the mission of the church ought to be the church! I don't think we should water down our faith, our worship, our community in order to make things more palatable. As has been often noted, the inside of our church is starting look too much like the outside of our church. Where is the reverence? Where is the experience of the transcendent God who created the universe? Where is the opportunity to take the focus off of ourselves?
I realize liturgical worship may not be for everyone, and we certainly can't deny the fact that the seeker-sensitive model has been very successful in reaching certain segments of the population, but at what price? My church does not employ a regular communion schedule. Our preaching series usually run 4-6 weeks and communion is put in wherever it fits, so we tend to take communion every 5-6 weeks. We just wrapped up a 6 week leadership series based on Nehemiah. The music at the beginning of the service was fine, the preaching adequate, but all of a sudden at the end, we take a sharp turn into communion. There was no set-up or connection to the preached material; we went from asking "what is your wall? what is the thing that God has tasked you with?" to "communion is about remembering Christ. When you're ready, the tables are off to the sides." And that was it. The band played a nice slow song to "set the mood" and everyone dutifully got in line to rip off a little piece of bread & picked up a little plastic cup of grape juice before returning to our seats. I fumed. I was shocked at how casually we were celebrating the Lord's Supper. No real mention of Christ's suffering & death, no reading from the Gospels; just a quick nod to Protestant ideals about it being merely a sybmolic memorial and we were off to the races.
So what does this have to do with mission statements? As I said, the mission of the church ought to be the church. We may change that mission with the good intentions of reaching a specific demographic or doing church differently to make things more comfortable for those who have been hurt in the past, but with each step away from our true mission we further reduce the impact we actually have on the world. This kind of thing is only possible in the Protestant church, with its overly granular view of salvation. Getting a person to accept Christ is not as important as actually making disciples. Right now, Protestantism feels like trying to run uphill on a sand dune. With each step we make less & less progress forward, and instead contribute to our demise of being buried in an avalanche of sand that is a culture that has been inoculated against Christ by shallow, comfortable Christianity.