Your own personal WHY
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
What are you dedicating your life to?
What do you believe most deeply about the world and your place within it?
This is the question of calling. Of vocation. Some people call it a “through-line” or a “final narrative”, a “personal mission statement” or a “single motivating purpose”.
I am pretty much decided on what I believe most deeply about the world. I’m still working on the question of my particular place within it, though I’ve come to some preliminary conclusions about what my specific roles are, regardless of how I might sum up my overall calling in one sentence.
All of this gets at the question of WHY. As Simon Sinek says in his fantastic TED Talk,
“Everyone knows what they do. Some people know how they do it. Very few people know why they do what they do.”
One WHY leads to another
What gets your church out of bed in the morning?
What is your church dedicating its life to?
What does your church believe most deeply about the world and its place within it?
This also is the question of calling. Of vocation. It’s an ecclesiastical through-line, a Christian community’s single motivating purpose.
Does your church have one? And is it glorious, memorable, and inspiring enough to get your church out of bed in the morning? Does it lead from a breathtaking premise (what your church believes most deeply about the world) to an ambitious conclusion (what your church’s place in that world is)?
Simon Sinek might say
Your church knows what it does. Many folks in your church know how it’s done. Does your congregation know why it does what it does?
Church mission statements are pointless if they don’t reflect reality—if they don’t reflect both deeply held beliefs and deeply felt callings. But they are powerful, resonant motivators for those authentic church communities which rightly insist upon a compelling reason to get out of bed in the morning.
In our series of gatherings called “Life in Jesus’ Church” (sort of our living room introduction to our church’s understanding of the gospel, the church, and our communal calling, with lots of food), we ask people if they know our church’s stated mission. Since it’s often newcomers, only about half do. Then we go over it.
“The truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus for the flourishing of Rock Hill.”
I ask folks what this verbiage suggests about our church’s belief and calling. Here are some of the responses we’ve gotten:
- “It suggests that we don’t just preach the truth, but practice goodness and value beauty.”
- “I’ve never heard of a church before that put ‘beauty’ in its mission statement.”
- “It says that Jesus is Lord over our city and will be the one who produces fruit here.”
- “It implies that what we do as a church is tangible, and valuable for our town.”
- “It says that because we have a Jesus who’s good, true, and beautiful, we’re hopeful for our city.”
- “It communicates that we’re not just looking for conversions or superficial morality, but for our community to come to life in every respect.”
- “It makes me think of the New Heavens and the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem, and our city’s future in cosmic redemption.” (This person was a bit of a theologian!)
- “It says that there’s more to church than teaching right doctrine.”
- “It tells our community that we’re here for them.”
- “It says that we are committed to being an incarnation of the good news, like Jesus, and not just talking about it.”
- “It seems to go way beyond ‘going to church on Sunday’.”
Now, I don’t expect anyone in our church to tattoo this statement on themselves. It’s not even important to me that everyone memorize it. But it is important that it would come as no surprise to anyone who heard it, once they’ve seen our church out of bed, on the streets, doing its thing.
As Simon Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
What would Donald do?
Could it be that the Donald Millers of the Christian world, who have opted out of “going to church”, have done so because our what is mundane, our how is full of cliché, and our why is nowhere to be discerned?
Put another way: if you are a culture-maker within your particular congregation, do you have the spiritual imagination to bore down beyond the what and how to articulate a compelling why? Is that why freighted with your most deeply held belief about the world, and your most deeply held belief about your church’s place in the world? Are you committed to starting with your compelling why and translating it into a sensible how and a well-aligned what?
At the most basic level, do the Donald Millers of your community sense that their personal why is reinforced, challenged, provoked, stoked, informed, and deployed by your church’s why? Are there Donald Millers around who can now say, “I can hardly believe I’ve found a church that is so committed to equipping me and unleashing me to do what God has called me to do”?
Tomorrow, I’ll begin to outline the how. I believe that cultivating ministry across the domains of Sabbath, Neighborhood, and Vocation are the next logical ways to concretize our church’s why. If you resonate with our why, then something similar to Sabbath, Neighborhood, and Vocation is probably called for in your context as well.
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