By Jim Neudorf
How much do you know about your mission field?
I was caught by surprise with the question. Immediately my mind went to missionaries overseas in dangerous dark jungles, and that I was not a missionary. My response however did not fit the context of the question. The context was a book called The Path, by Laurie Beth Jones and the word “mission” was referring to a person’s purpose.
The question assumed that I knew my mission, yet my observation is that many people don’t seem to know their mission. That certainly described me for many years as I had a generic mission which was not the one that God had specifically for me. Mark Buchanan describes the results of a generic mission this way: “Most of drivenness and anxiousness comes from not really knowing what we must do. So we do a lot of things” (Your God is Too Safe). It was through the CREST Leadership Program and my CREST coach that I began to gain clarity so I could articulate my own mission.
A mission statement needs to answer the fundamental question of “why” you exist. In a simple and one sentence way it needs to explain that you are here “so that …” . As an example, here is my statement:
I am a man of grace, blessing and principle so that I can facilitate growth and movement.
My first version started with the phrase, “I want to be.” This was aspirational as I recognized I could not live up to that mission. While on a personal retreat I realized, however, that I needed to fully claim my mission, even if I would not always live it. This was a birthright gift that should not be sold for a pot of lentils. It was necessary to set the bar higher than a vague aspiration. That is why the statement starts with a bold, “I am.” If I am living my birthright, it describes how people experience me.
To facilitate staying on purpose, Jones points out three elements of a good mission statement:
1. Not more than a sentence long
2. Can be understood by a 12 year old
3. You can recite it any place, any time
Focus is what is necessary to insure that we are living on purpose in our mission field. At the time that I was developing clarity about my mission, the company I was working for was in the midst of a union certification. The relational environment was toxic, threatening to draw me into its vortex of negativity, back stabbing, gossip, and manipulation. My tactic to resist was to daily, sometimes hourly, remind myself of my mission. That helped me be true to myself and as a result, after the certification, still have the trust of my subordinates.
My reality is that I need to continually refocus on my mission. There are lots of distractions, many of which are good causes, which tempt me to be someone I am not and to pursue a purpose that is not mine. If I allow myself to be distracted my resources of time, energy and creativity become a mile wide and inch deep. I become scattered and lose influence. My identity and purpose act as a filter to help me process decisions: will this help me live on purpose or not?
When I took CREST one of the metaphors used was the idea of a leader being a person that people “bump into” and notice. “Bump into” not in an offensive or grandstanding way, rather in a substantive way that comes from being clear about who you are and why you are here. That substance comes from self-leadership that revisits purpose regularly to stay focused.
“What we think about ourselves is clearly and unequivocally reflected in everything we say or do – in our work, our surroundings, our family life and our service to others.” (Jones)
When was the last time you reoriented your thinking to your purpose?