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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mission Statement

I’ve never had much use for mission statements or five-year plans, though they are certainly an ongoing feature of modern business life. And perhaps in a business environment it makes sense to ask, “What is our purpose and how are we going to realize it?” The problem is that it is easy to formulate a lofty catchphrase that is entirely meaningless in the real world, isn’t it?

·         McDonald’s mission statement is typical of such efforts to distill purpose into a single phrase:  “McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink”. Predictably bland and inoffensive, it quite rightly leaves out the bit about “enriching ourselves by destroying the health of the world one person at a time”, probably because figuring out which part of the chicken McNuggets come from is a little more urgent.

·         Apple’s mission statement is less of a statement and more of an advert. It starts off: “Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience …” and quickly dribbles off into describing all the different people Apple satisfies with the various indispensable parts of its product line.

·         Possibly the most cloying of all is Starbucks’, notable if only for its spectacular overreach: “Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

No, really. I didn’t make that up. Marketing Department, dial the rhetoric back a notch, please: it’s just COFFEE! I don’t come to you to have my human spirit nurtured. I just want an espresso, preferably hot and quick.

But it seems to me that the Christian life doesn’t require a mission statement or a five-year plan, so much as a permanent cast of mind.

God isn’t looking for people with good ideas or implementation skills. Even less is he looking for people to convince him how wonderful we are with airy speeches about our self-invented purposes and plans for our lives.

God is looking for men and women who think like he does.

Adam

When God walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, he made a sound. The Hebrew word used suggests that it might have been the sound of wind. But in any case, it was a recognizable sound; a sound that seems to have regularly signaled Adam to come looking for him. Possibly at these times God and Adam would speak with one another, or perhaps God would speak and Adam would listen. We’re not told. But we are told that one day God came walking, and Adam failed to respond to the familiar sound, but hid himself because of his sin.

So God calls out to Adam, “Where are you?” Strikingly, he speaks to him in the singular. Eve had sinned first, and Adam had gone along with her. But it is Adam that God calls to account. It is not just that a command has been broken; it is that a relationship between God and Adam has been disrupted.

This is not simply a technical violation of what seems an arbitrary rule.

For God, this is very, very personal. Adam had ceased to think like him.

Enoch

Enoch, on the other hand, “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him”. The Septuagint, which the gospel writers have the Lord often quoting, says “Enoch pleased God, and he was not found”. But God knew where he was, because he’d taken him home.

He’d found a man who thought like he does.

Abraham

Abraham and his children, we read, to the third generation, lived in tents. Why would they do that? Abraham was one of the richest men of his day. But he was “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God”. He deliberately chose to live as an alien and a stranger to this world in obedience to the calling of God, with no regard for money and possessions, or for making a name for himself in this world.

God had found another one.

Solomon

Later, we read that the Lord appeared to King Solomon, the son of David, “a man after God’s own heart”; a man who, characteristically, if not perfectly, thought like God. Apparently sometimes David’s son did too: God says to Solomon, “Ask what I shall give you,” and Solomon replies, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this, your great people?”

We read that it pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. He’d found yet another man who thought the way he does.

God says to him, if you’ll excuse my paraphrase: “You could have asked for anything, but you didn’t. You had carte blanche. But you didn’t ask for a long life. You didn’t ask to be rich. You didn’t ask to conquer your enemies. You asked for something that showed you think like I do, in some small measure. So, guess what? I’m going to give you all the things you didn’t ask for, in addition to what you did.”

The Mission

David wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

It occurs to me that if our hearts are already genuinely “delighting” in the Lord, it’s next to impossible to have a deeply felt “desire of the heart” that is wrong or inappropriate, or that will displease the Lord in any way.

When we delight in him, material things lose their charm. When we delight in him, fame and success seem like the phantoms they really are. When we delight in him, sinful pleasures that might disturb our fellowship with him reveal themselves as the horrors and violations they really are. When we delight in him, security seems a ridiculous concern. Of course he has our back at every turn in the road.

Delight ourselves in the Lord.

There’s all the ‘mission statement’ and ‘five-year plan’ we’ll ever need.

1 comment :

  1. This rocks, Tom. This life is all about relationship with God, not about techniques or even commands-for-their-own-sake.

    How sad that in some churches a "creed" or "mission statement" has replaced ongoing engagement with the truth of Scripture itself. Out of a noble desire to put some essentials in place, we sometimes lean on a particular "church doctrine," or "statement of faith, " or set of "distinctives".

    But what we really need is the doctrine of the Word, the faith to believe in the good purposes of God, and the distinctive commitment to seek out that real relationship with the Father through the Son.

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