“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.
The 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).