Vision, Mission, and Purpose
“When there is not a prophetic vision the people run wild;
the one who keeps the Law is blessed.”
Often, when people speak of the importance of having a vision statement for an organization or for a church, they cite this passage from the Proverbs, and rightfully so. When a church does not have a clear understanding of who they are or where they are going, then the people do run wild, going in every which direction, however their heart happens to lead them. This is dangerous for any group or body of people, but especially so for the church, for God is not a God of chaos and disorder; he is a God of order and thus our lives ought to reflect that great reality.
Yet, to understand fully what Solomon is saying in this proverb, we need to understand two things. First, this verse is found within a larger context; namely a teaching on the significance of discipline. While some discipline in life is negative (when we get in trouble), self-discipline exercised in a positive way is the foundation for living a Christian life. How can we be “Disciples” if we do not discipline ourselves? Thus, the “running wild” that is mentioned is not just due to a people lacking a clear sense of vision for the future; instead, it should be understood that those who lack a clear sense of direction for the future will fail to discipline themselves and as a result, the people will run amok.
The second thing that one must understand about this verse is that the vision that is being spoken of is not an abstract vision given to everyone, but instead it is a “prophetic” vision…it is a revelation given by God for the good of the people. In fact, the Hebrew term that is found here can also be translated as “word of revelation.” How do we gain this vision if there are no more prophets and apostles and thus God no longer speaks authoritatively from heaven? The answer is found in the Word of God. If we look to the Scriptures, we will recognize that the vision we have for our church must be built on and grounded in Scripture and Scripture alone. And when we depart from the Scriptures, once again, we will run amok.
So thus, we see the language of Vision as something that is not rooted in our preferences but that is rooted in the revelation found in God’s word. It is our only standard by which we judge our faith, our theology, and the way we live out our lives.
So how does that work itself out in our specific Church family? In the case of the local church, both the Purpose and the Mission are established for us by the Scriptures; the Vision we articulate in light of the Biblical Purpose and Mission.
What is the purpose of the church? We are called to stand against the gates of Hell (Matthew 16:18). What does this mean? When Jesus made this statement, he was portraying the powers of the enemy as being like a fortress and the church as being like an army on the march. Gates are defensive fortifications designed to keep enemies outside of the city. Jesus portrays the role of the church as an attacking army tearing down the gates of Satan’s strongholds in this world. Too often people fall into the trap of picturing the church in a defensive posture — standing as a rock as the waves of the enemies crash against its walls. Yet, such is not how the Bible portrays the church. The church is an army on the move, marching against the powers and principalities of this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12).
A Mission is a more tangible and measurable task. Soldiers in a war might, for example, be given the mission to take a certain hill or to defend a certain city. In the Christian church, we are to understand mission in the same way. Similarly, the scriptures give to us a Mission statement: we are to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18) and we are to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Certainly, there are sub-missions contained within this mission of the church. Our Worship, Evangelism, Missions, Mercy Ministries, Bible Studies, Teaching, Apologetic Work, etc…in the community and throughout the world are all designed to feed toward this mission that Christ has given us in his Word.
The vision of the church reflects the leadership’s looking forward and backwards and asking how we see ourselves fulfilling this Purpose and Mission in ways that are specific to our heritage, our personality as a congregation, and our community. Vision statements function much like a series of instruments by which the Church Council can view and evaluate the direction that the church is taking so that we can remain faithful to our Biblical Mission and Purpose.
Our Vision statement is included as part of our Constitution:
“Our Highest aim is the worship of God in spirit and in truth, the advancement of the Christian Life through the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the Holy Sacraments, and Christian instruction in Church and School.”
One of the primary tasks of the Church Council
is to ensure that we, as a congregation, do not wander to the right or to the left
of this path that God has set for us.