Monday, September 20, 2010

Are You Fully Devoted?

It seems that you won’t be taken seriously as a congregation any more unless you have a mission statement – the Holy Spirit can’t possibly act without your mission statement. I bumped into this one not long ago on an LCMS church’s website:

Our mission statement is: Sharing God’s Hope by doing whatever it takes for God to transform people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

For the sake of the parishioners of this particular congregation, I sure hope that none of them are my neighbors, or their gonna be in for a miserable experience. I can assure you that no matter what they do, up to and including “whatever it takes,” I’m never going to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. I’m a poor miserable sinner, and until I’m dead, my status will remain a poor miserable sinner. I’ve discovered that the “miserable sinner” in me always gets in the way of the “fully devoted” idea. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’m too enthused about the whole “fully devoted” program – that sure sounds like a two-tiered Christianity to me, an idea with zero Biblical support. I must report that I’ll always remain, this side of heaven, in the “fully forgiven sinner” category. But that’s something I can deal with, because I know I already have eternal life, since Christ’s atoning work on the cross is in the bank and I’m declared righteous even while in my current “miserable sinner” state.

While we’re on the topic, are they really going to do whatever it takes? Will they lie to make sure you’re transformed, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Will they try flirty fishing? Or will it just be puppets in the Divine Service? And who’s doing the transformation, them or God? It seems like it’s a little of both.

The other thought that comes to mind is the fully devoted Christ follower might be devoted to environmentalism and social justice, following the politically correct Jesus rather than the Jesus who is prophet, priest, and king. This confusion is what makes mission statements a dicey proposition. You can bet they were well-intentioned when they wrote their statement, yet it falls well short of a suitable Lutheran ideal. A little like testimonials, the mission statement often turns the words inward on the Christian rather than focusing on the redemption found at the cross.

I’ll close this post out with Paul’s mission statement. While not as succinct as the one above, it still seems like a decent roadmap to follow:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 ESV

Or if that's too long for you, Acts 2:42 works nicely as well:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

photo credit: Cowtools


roger said...

I have always wondered why some feel the great need for a mission statement. But lest we seem to think only congregations have such we need to remember that all of the Concordias have a mission statement, both seminaries have a mission statement and the Synod has a mission statement. However, Scott, I am with you that God's Word simply given is a much better mission statement than anything man can put forth!

Scott Diekmann said...

Yes, having a mission statement isn't all bad, especially if you're an entity that really needs to define its mission. But a church? Isn't it obvious? I'm equally annoyed by school mission statements. I think there's some Bible verse that says a school's mission statement must contain some mention of "servant leader."

Paul said...

Acts 2:42 really does offer a good summary; who are we that we think we can improve on the Holy Spirit?! If we simply cannot do without a man-made statement, I propose that every LCMS institution, congreagation, whatever adopt the following: "To Know Christ and to Make Him Known."