I am discovering that many times we confuse congregational purpose with mission. For sure, congregational mission includes our understanding of purpose but mission is much more. Congregational purpose can be expressed in many different kinds of words based on congregational context, but purpose is true for all congregations and must be understood by those who are working at designing a vision and mission that isrelevant for their congregation’s existence. If a congregation goes out of existence, God’s purpose for the church does not. Thus, other congregations still exist and their purpose is the same.
In The Message, by Eugene Peterson, he paraphrases Ephesians 1:23 “…Christ rules the church. The church you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” Could this be a statement of purpose for the church?
In their excellent book on Adapt to Thrive by John Flowers and Karen Vannoy, they write that “…The purpose of every local church is to make new disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world”. This is a great statement of purpose!
Purpose is the key reason for existing. If we don’t get purpose right then most everything else that emerges—core values, vision, mission can be distorted or less than what God needs and wants the church to be in these times.
I happen to believe that many of the 80% of the congregations that are in decline in North America are at least in part in decline because they have not spent time praying about and naming with more clarity the reason for their being. Does your congregation know its reason for being? Vitalization and health of a congregation begins with this question. If you ask for clarity about it, pray about it, explore scripture and culture around you in your discernment about it, I wonder what purpose of existence will God lead you to name?