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Is NCBC A Missional Church?

If someone asked you this question how would you respond? You might be tempted to say, “Sure we’re missional. We support missionaries all over the world. We even have missionaries here in the United States we support. We pray for our missionaries and even have a Sunday every quarter given over to missions. So, yes, we are most certainly a missional church.”

Such a response would have been on target several decades ago. Today, however, missional is normally not used in that way. The problem is Christians use missional in many different ways. So I want to begin by defining missional and along the way show what it means for us as a congregation to be missional.

The Oxford Desk Dictionary defines mission as the “particular task or goal assigned to or assumed by a person or group.” These words are synonyms for mission: duty, function, purpose, work, calling, and task. So a missional church is a congregation that knows its task, calling, or work and is endeavoring to carry it out.

Is NCBC such a church? The answer is most definitely, “Yes.” We have adopted a Mission Statement that we believe summarizes our duty and calling as a congregation. This statement is on our web site. It is on the wall you see as soon as you enter the church building. It appears in our bulletin every Sunday. Here it is: to bring glory to God through Spirit-transformed lives by the beauty and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be careful that we don’t give the impression that the way we say it is the only way to state the mission of a church. There are other ways of saying the same thing. Most often it seems that mission statements reference the glory of God and the gospel. The important thing is not that everyone has the same mission statement. It’s important that a church has a mission statement known and used by its members. Why do I say this? For one simple reason: If you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. A mission statement keeps you on target. It’s a tool that enables you to keep on track. Without such a tool it’s easy to waste our time, energy, and resources on matters we should leave to others.

Another point we need to grasp concerns the application of a mission statement by a particular church. Two churches could have the same mission statement, but their ministries could be very different. How is that possible? The immediate context of each church will determine how they carry out their mission statement. An inner city church in Chicago will most likely have different ministries and plans than a church in a farming community in Iowa. “Being the church” may mean very different things in both settings because of the specific issues or problems that need to be addressed in taking the gospel to people who are similar, yet, different.

Another problem is addressed by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. “Even though the new crop of church books decry the old church growth models, they still operate with the same basic assumption: namely, that churches should be growing and something is wrong with the church that isn’t. . . This assumption, however, is alien to the New Testament. . . There is simply no biblical teaching to indicate that church size is the measure of success.” Faithfulness to our calling or duty is the measure of success. Paul makes this point in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” A good, biblical mission statement helps us keep focused on the important issues.

Finally, don’t assume that all our problems will be solved just because we have mission statement that clearly summaries our task as a church. Our mission statement is a summary of our beliefs focusing on the main issues. It does not say everything that can be said about glorifying God, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the gospel. It is our task as a congregation to flesh that out in our ministries as we apply these truths to the community where God has placed us. We must first and foremost be the church here in the Fox Valley area. If our mission statement gets in the way of us doing that, we should be willing to change it or do away with it.

I have broken, misplaced, and thrown away many a tool in my infamous vocation as a handyman. I don’t want to be thought of as a handyman for understanding the church. I don’t want to just tweak things here, twist them there, and tap them lightly here. No, I want to be known as one who is an expert builder in the church of God. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:13 that “the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” in the church. May God help us all to be expert builders who can use a tool like a mission statement to carefully build on the foundation “which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).

Elder Jim Gordon