On Sunday night January 6, the staff of Northland Baptist Church unveiled the mission and vision of where we sense God leading. But before we unveiled the mission and vision, we did two things. First, we celebrated the past. Celebrating what God has done lays the groundwork for moving forward to new mission and vision. At Northland, there has been much to celebrate and much to give God praise. In addition, celebrating the past allows those who are part of the history see that the future mission and vision does not diminish the past—but builds on it. In other words, celebrating the past expresses that the new mission and vision is a continuation of God’s movement.
Second, we were honest with where we are as a church. The way we did this was to show the congregation how our community around us has grown about 30,000 people (from 112,00 to 140,000) over the course of ten years (as well as the projected growth over the next ten years), and how our church attendance has slightly declined. In addition, we showed how the church has slowly been adding members and seeing people come to know Jesus. Having done much reading and research in why churches plateau and decline, as well as research in the area of jump-starting declining and plateauing churches, we presented ten elements of growing churches. Furthermore, we presented the life cycle of a church showing how all churches (as well as organizations) have a life cycle.
Having celebrated and presented the reality, we laid the foundation to present the new mission and vision for our church. Our mission is to glorify God by blessing our world spiritually, socially, and culturally. The word “blessing” goes back to the mission God gave Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on earth.” Prior to man’s mission, God issues blessing in order to accomplish the mission. In this mission, God issues the functional essence of what it means to be human, which at the core means we are to be relational, social, and cultural beings.
“Blessing” also is seen in the mission God gave Abram in Genesis 12. God promised “blessing” to Abram and that through Abram and his descendants God would “bless all the families of the earth.” The fulfillment of the Abrahamic mission of blessing comes in Jesus—in his life, death, resurrection, and sending out of his followers. This mission of blessing the world spiritually, socially, and culturally seeks to encapsulate the comprehensiveness of the gospel and the redeeming transformation it brings in people’s lives.
Therefore, at Northland we desire to be a church that seeks to lead people in a relationship with Jesus Christ, in order that they may be spiritually redeemed (forgiven of sins) and reconciled to God. Having been redeemed and reconciled to God, we desire to be people that express that love towards are neighbor (Matt 22:39), thus looking for ways to love our neighbor, our community and our world. Last, we desire to be a church that embeds itself in the cultural life of our community. The majority of churches today tend to be isolated as irrelevant subcultures and communities of their local community. At Northland we want to strive to be part of the ethos of the Northland community by being involved in the schools, the apartments, the local government, the marketplaces/businesses, and the various community events.
With defining a mission, there must be vision—the answering of “how” the mission will be accomplished. For us at Northland, we will seek to accomplish the mission by these three elements: Growing, Giving, and Going. Our desire is to see our people grow in their relationship with Christ and with one another. Second, we desire for our people to give of their time, talents, and treasure. Northland wants to lead its people to be generous givers and servers. This not only includes finding a way to serve during the weekend gatherings, but to uncover and unleash their passion to serve people throughout the week. Third, we desire that our people go for the Lord to people. This includes a comprehensive strategy of reaching our community, our state, our nation, and our world—having both intentional missional living as well as church planting as a major thrust of our “Go” strategy.
As I told the staff, now begins the process of executing this mission and vision. We must keep these ever before the people through many vehicles of communication. If mission and vision is to be caught, not just taught, they must begin to see the unfolding of the mission and vision. In other words, there must be progress. If there is no progress, then the mission and vision has been a theoretical exercise. Obviously, if we believe that God has given the mission and vision, we do not want it to be a theoretical exercise, but an experiential exercise of allowing God to unleash His Spirit and move in a powerful transforming way.
Here are some final thoughts of Mission, Vision, Process, and Progress that I hope helps Northland as well as other stuck churches:
1) Mission and Vision Defines our Purpose. A mission and vision becomes a rallying point for people. Having a defined mission and vision creates a decision point for people; people will either choose to rally behind the vision, or they will decide that this is not the right bus for them.
2) Mission and Vision Express our Priorities. Having expressed our priorities, our church no longer has to be driven by the past nor people’s preferences. I had a phone call the other day where a gentlemen told me all that he wanted us to fix and implement. Everything he “told” (not suggested) me was his preferences. I graciously thanked him for his feedback and asked him, “How will you feel if we do none of those things?” I was not trying to be a jerk, but to tell him that those may not be our priorities in light of our mission and vision.
3) Mission and Vision Provides our Identity. In unveiling our mission and vision, we have unveiled our identity. This is who Northland is and what Northland is about. Therefore, we are unapologetic if we are not what people want us to be. We are striving to be who we believe God wants us to be.
4) Mission and Vision Requires our Protection. Now that mission and vision has been unveiled and outlined, there will be people that will try to thwart that mission and vision. There will be those inside the church and outside (demonic forces) that will try thwarting any mission and vision that has to do with God’s redeeming power infiltrating through the world. Therefore, both the leaders and the members should be on guard against these antagonistic forces, being people who are spirit-filled, prayerful, defensive, and offensive (Eph 6:10-18).
5) Process and Progress Proves our Seriousness. If we do not move forward in implementing the mission and vision, people will take that as us not being serious. Therefore, there is great need for people to see movement. In addition, if they do not see movement then it will be harder in the future to share fresh ideas and movement, because they have not seen anything change in the past.