Now maybe I should not get all that excited about them -- seeing as most churches that adopt them promptly forget them or change them like a person does underwear. How many emphases and how many mission statements have we been through in the LCMS in the past 32 years I have served in her? It seems that we change mission statements or emphases about as often as we change Synod Presidents -- hmmm... could there be a connection there?? But, because some folks do pay attention to them, I pay attention to what they pay attention to.
Developing missional leaders in congregations and schools. That is the mission statement of the District that is selling church property paid for by the good people of the District and designated for campus ministry. It is a mission that has produced a large number of church workers and is a vibrant congregation in which the Word and Sacrament, the confessional identity of the Lutheran Church, and the liturgical tradition of Lutherans is highly esteemed. It has a very strong focus on outside the borders of the congregation and sees itself as a mission as well as a congregation. It would seem to be missional in every way you could imagine that term being used. Maybe not. Maybe there is another understanding of missional at work here.
In a private conversation I had with someone highly involved in the renewal of congregations plateaued or dying, the term missional was used quite often. But it was not used in reference to me or the parish I serve.
- Even though we have supported District and Synod to the tune of about $500,000 over the past 17 years,
- Even though we have supported additional individual missions (local, regional, national, and international) with some $100,000 over the past 15 years,
- Even though we are a partner with the Siberian Lutheran Church,
- Even though we now are one of the key supporting congregations of the local Pastoral Counseling Center and an ecumenical cash assistance agency for the poor,
- Even though we have a food pantry that serves more than 700 families per year,
- Even though we are a partner in a food program for school children who do not receive a real meal outside the school lunch program,
- Even though we catechize dozens of unchurched adults each year,
- Even though we have programs designed solely to make ourselves known in the community and to bring folks wary of Lutherans into our building,
- Even though each week we have hundreds of people in Bible study,
- Even though we visitors number 3-5% of our Sunday morning attendance,
- Even though we have baptize a large number of infants and children. . . and a host of other things I could name,
Being missional has become a code word for the likes of congregations like "the Pointe" or "the Alley" or a hundred other similar missions that embrace all sorts of things in order to be cutting edge (technology, music, culture, dress, etc.) but seem uncomfortable in the vocabulary, doctrine, worship identity, and practice of the Lutheran Confessions. If I am wrong, I would like to be set straight. A few may venture to challenge this conclusion, but it seems many of the Districts of Synod have a particular idea in mind of what it means to be missional and it does not seem to have a lot in common with me or my parish....
So back to my point... I am not sure that mission statements are worth the time and energy we seem to put in them. They are often pushed to the back shelf and do not seem to be all that significant in deciding what we do. They are often so vague as to be meaningless. They are often so laden with an agenda as to be foreign to our confessional identity. They seem intent upon ignoring the mission statement inherent in Scripture and implicit in the life of the Church through the ages -- God works through the means of grace and the Word and Sacraments ARE not only the source but the goal of our life as the baptized and believing children of God. So.... why do we have them, again?