“Values and purposes can become palatable substitutes for God.” — Henry Blackaby

For years, leadership seminars and Christian conferences alike have extolled the value of Vision Statements, Mission Statements, and Purpose Statements. For a while, many businesses and churches spent more time crafting their statements than living them. Even now, plaques, posters, and strategic plans often lay out these (sometimes) complex statements. Paragraph after paragraph of carefully produced rhetoric adorns company and church literature, with few employees or constituents able to remember or recite any of it. It looks comprehensive, impressive, polished, and purposeful. It’s just — mostly — pointless.

purposeThe underlying assumption is that if we have clear purpose we will channel our energy and efforts appropriately to achieve success. I’ve even heard this applied recently to our personal lives. Someone suggested: “Unhappy and unproductive people simply lack clarity about their purpose in the plan of God.

I ought to back up just a little and affirm that a simple (less than 20 words), memorable (sharp focus with measurable parts), God-honoring Mission Statement for an organization can function like a clear bugle-call to battle. I’m all for it.

But Henry Blackaby’s statement still has a profoundly prophetic ring to it.

A great Mission or Purpose Statement — even a personal one for our lives — may have enormous value. But in subtle and unintended ways, it can also become a palatable substitute for God Himself.

Walking by the Spirit requires more than crafting a Purpose Statement that resonates with our strengths, dreams, and life-goals. Walking by the Spirit means living a life of continual surrender to His leading. The Spirit and our Statements may not always align, and therein lies the rub.

“…a palatable substitute for God.”

When we stand on grace, in grace, because of grace, and for grace, we yield control to the One whose purposes transcend anything of our own. This requires a constant attentiveness, willingness, and responsiveness on our part; not at all easy, when our structured Statements offer so much more predictability and certainty. And in the moment that we resist (or neglect) the leading of the Divine Wind, our Purpose-Driven lives may become “a palatable idolatry”.

By all means develop a life Mission Statement, if you feel so led. Construct a succinct organizational Purpose Statement, if that will help define your main focus. But in this Journey of faith, let’s listen carefully, attentively, and constantly, for the voice of Christ who may call us to the left or the right for His purposes (not our own).

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12 Responses to Purpose-Driven?

  1. Barry Thygesen says:

    Good morning David, It is so good to wake up this morning to such a “breath of fresh Air”. Thank you so much for your boldness to take on the corporate church that as I look at statistics is going broke. Difficult as it may be to measure, I have two mission statements for me personally and it keep me focused. “Make God Look Good.” and “Be the love of God with skin on”. Be blessed my friend

  2. Kenneth Wadum says:

    Thanks so much for this David. I couldn’t agree more. My personal mission statement:”Today, may I be faithful to you regardless of what life brings.” That’s it. To me it encompases everything else. When I had my counseling practice I prayed for wisdom, knowledge, discernment and understanding during each session. I don’t know if that is a mission statement or not but it helped give me direction for the day. Why can’t the church adopt the mission statement of Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all of our heart, soul and mind. And love my neighbor as myself.” Or: “They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another.” Doesn’t loving people include introducing them to Christ and ministering to them as He would. So much time wasted in our churches planning, organizing and discussing. So little time spent doing and being. Ken

  3. Phyllis Heglund says:

    Thanks so much for this insight. I breathed a sigh of relief.

  4. I think it is easier for many of us, as you have indicated, to create and rely on a purpose statement, a list of goals, or a business plan than it is to relate on a personal level to God in ways that seem other-worldly. I am much more comfortable with what comes from my nature than in giving up my natural instincts to follow God moment-by-moment, but I know from experience what way of living gives real purpose and meaning to my life. Thanks for a timely reminder.

  5. Heide Costa says:

    Yes, oh my, this is very good šŸ˜Š…
    As my body broke down, and I wasn’t able to “do” – the purposes, the driven-ness, the accomplishing, things certainly changed. I learned to be loved without performance, and that is/was not an easy learn…
    I’m also reminded of something John Jackson said to me once – ” God is not linear”, so ‘hearing His voice to move to the left or the right’ is something else I completely can relate to…
    Giving up the order and control over our lives to God is not easy, but worth the ‘good fight’… And having the Purpose – to hear from God, to receive from God, to give from God and to be loved by God is a good purpose for me!
    Thank you David,

    • David Timms says:

      “God is not linear.” Good reminder, Heide. Thanks. And most of us know that life doesn’t tend to be very linear either! Sounds like He would be a good One to trust. šŸ™‚

    • Heide Costa says:

      And, thank you again… As I went about my day, I realized – “Here I am Lord, I trust You” might be an even better ‘mission statement’!!!
      Thank you for the ‘next insight’!!!

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