This past weekend, a small cross-section of the congregation gathered at Fort Bluff Camp in Dayton for a planning retreat conducted by Dr. Tom Wood of Church Multiplication Ministries. The purpose of the retreat was to help us articulate our mission, identify key objectives in the pursuit of that mission, and begin formulating appropriate strategies and tactics for accomplishing those objectives.
Before the retreat, I was anxious to get to work on our strategies and tactics. I already had a mission statement for Trinity. I wanted to figure out how we were going to do what I thought I already knew we should be doing. I wanted to focus on the nuts and bolts of planning. And, I must admit, I am still anxious to work on strategies and tactics. I have always been better at seeing where I want to go than figuring out the practicalities of how to get there. I am anxious to have those gifted differently than myself take up the work of formulating a plan to make the vision reality.
However, during the retreat I saw the benefit of working together to hammer out a mission statement. By working together to articulate the mission statement the mission statement was improved. The mission statement we came up with is better than the mission statement I had before the retreat.
Before the retreat, I would have said Trinity exists to glorify God by making mature disciples of Jesus Christ in Cleveland and through out the world. I still believe this is a good summary of Trinity’s God-given mission. As a congregation of Christ’s church, Trinity is not free to choose its own mission. Rather, Trinity’s mission is defined by God. And God has given his church the task of making mature disciples (see Matthew 28:19-20; also Colossians 1:29). So, it is correct to say Trinity exists to glorify God by making mature disciples.
However, I now see this statement is incomplete. Tom challenged us to think about the reason we have been called to make mature disciples. “Discipling” churches have a tendency to become ingrown or self-focused. Therefore, in order to guard against this, it is important to articulate the other-focused or outward purpose of our disciple-making endeavors. We have attempted to do this in our new and improved mission statement.
At the retreat, we said Trinity exists to glorify God by making mature disciples of Jesus Christ who generously serve God, one another, and our neighbors in Cleveland and around the world. To borrow one of Jim Laird’s many metaphors, we are not seeking to grow disciples with spiritual muscle simply so they can look in the mirror and feel good about themselves. Rather, we are seeking to grow disciples with spiritual muscle so they can give themselves fully and sacrificially to serving God in worship, to serving one another in nurture, and to serving their neighbors in outreach.
In the weeks to come, I hope to use this space to unpack further each of these areas of service, as well as the means by which we intend to accomplish this goal. In the meantime, I hope our new mission statement gives you a clearer sense, not only of what we are trying to accomplish, but also of the reason behind our efforts. Our ambition is not merely to be a congregation of maturing disciples. Rather, our ambition is to be a congregation of maturing disciples who are joyfully giving themselves to generous and sacrificial service, using the gifts and opportunities given to us by God for the glory of his name and the good of our neighbors, both within the church and out in the community.