In all my years of ministry, over and over and over I have heard confusion about the difference between mission and vision. Which one is more important? Which one is short? Which one is long? Is vision a paragraph or a sentence?

This past week I was at a retreat where we discussed this. It was fascinating because a pastor there said that they don’t have a vision statement. That got me thinking about how we get stuck on defining mission and vision and then don’t move forward because we get stuck just trying to define what it is!

So, seeing as terminology is confusing, let’s throw it all out the window and use pictures, one of my favorite ways of communicating. 🙂

This circle below represents where a church is in the current state.

Now let’s add another circle to represent the church in the future.

To get from now to the future, you need some way of getting there.

Now let’s look at it a little more closely.

When we look at our church in the present state, it is important for us to define our sense of identity. Who are we? What is important to us? Why do we exist?

Churches define their identity in different ways. It could be a mission or purpose statement that defines why they exist. Some are short:

WillowCreek Community Church: To turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.

Or it can be longer:

Saddleback Church: Our Purpose here at Saddleback is to lead people to Jesus and membership in his family, teach them to worship the Lord and magnify his name, develop them to Christlike maturity, and equip them for ministry in the church, and a mission in the world.

Some just list their core values, like Bayside Church, which has theirs built on an acronym for their name:


We believe that practical, relevant teaching is the catalyst for transformation in individuals’ lives. Scripture is inspired by God, completely accurate and our authority regarding Christian beliefs and the guide for Christian living.

We believe all people matter to God and ought to matter to the church. We want everyone to experience God’s grace and love.

We believe that ministries to children and teenagers should be given high priority. We are committed to making Bayside a center for reaching, encouraging and developing the youth of our area.

We believe that Christian growth, life-change and pastoral care happen best in small groups. We consider it vital that everyone participate in a small-group Bible study.

We look for God’s love in our lives as the evidence that we have been truly worshiping Him. We celebrate together with great music, teaching and prayer.

We believe that full devotion to Christ and His cause is normal for every believer.

We believe that enabling people to discover and develop their gifts is God’s strategy for changing the world!

Some churches are specific about their identity:

Cornerstone Church:


Cornerstone is a group of ordinary people from diverse backgrounds who have been shown an extraordinary truth about life through God’s Word. We’ve come together as a community in response to the love Jesus has shown us.

Park Street Church has a very long and specific statement about their identity. They sure have a good idea of who they are! I won’t put it here because it’s so long but check out their web page.

The future state of the church is where the church is headed.

The future state could be communicated through a vision statement.

For brevity’s sake, I won’t include samples, as some of them are pretty long, but if you want to see some, Google “Church vision statement examples.” Here are a few:

Some churches interchange or combine the Now and Future. Like this statement, which sounds like a mission statement, purpose statement and vision statement all rolled into one.

Fellowship Church:

What Is Our Purpose?

The Vision of Fellowship Church

Our vision for Fellowship Church is simple. We exist to Reach Up, Reach Out, and Reach In. These three are the biblical mandates of the local church.

To get from Now to Future, the way to get there is the Strategy.

These can include goals, milestones, initiatives, and any other plans that are to be implemented. Here are examples of a strategies.

North Point Community Church: … to create environments where people are encouraged and equipped to pursue intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.

Ginghamsburg Church (click on the name)

To add to the fun, different churches choose to mix it all up.

  • Kent Covenant Church has only a mission and strategic initiatives.
  • Mosaic Church has mission, vision, values and core convictions (which seem to be a kind of statement of faith).
  • Journey Community Church has a purpose statement as well as a mission statement and vision statement.
  • Vintage Church has a vision statement, broken down into what (in my opinion) look like value statements.

It’s no wonder that people get confused. There are many ways to approach the issue of mission, values, identity, strategy, vision, and many other aspects of church big-picture leadership.

To simplify things, ask yourself three questions:

1. Who are we and what are we about?

2. Where do we want to go?

3. How will we get there?

These questions are easier asked than answered! How they are answered will depend upon your particular context and calling as well as how to best communicate to your congregation. Don’t get hung up on terminology. If you can answer these three questions above, you’re good to go!


2 thoughts on “Forget Mission and Vision

  1. Distilling 66 Biblical books and 6000 years of reflection and commentary into 5 word statements is not easy. Perhaps not necessary. In Paul’s words “You are our letter of recommendation.” Just get on with embodying the grace that is at the center of the Bible’s message. If words help us focus – use words.

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