Personal Mission Statement
Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Emmett is into trains these days and his favorite is the famous "Thomas". Because Thomas the Train is blue, he reminds me if the story of the Little Engine that Could. If you don't know the story, it is about a small train-engine who, against all odds, carries a large load up a mountain, chanting for motivation the phrase, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." The moral of the story is that you are capable of doing something difficult if you set your mind to do it. But the repetition of the phrase illustrates something different for me, that something like a personal mission statement can do a lot of motivating to keep someone going on the right course.
I want to have a personal mission statement because of what "I think I can" did for the Little Engine. Behind his mantra, I see the desire to make it up the mountain despite the difficulties it takes to get there. I would love to have a short and concise statement that summarizes what my life should be about, so that when difficulty comes or confusion arises, I can fall back on this well-thought-out phrase for guidance.
Now, I want to be careful here because Scripture is clear and sufficient for all of life. God has granted to us "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3). In the midst of the highs and lows of life, in the confusion and the clarity, God's word is the steady foundation and the breath of clear sight that we all need for both godliness and guidance. Only Scripture, as given and inspired by God, is perfect and without error. Any personal mission statement of mine cannot usurp this role of God's word, otherwise it would be idolatrous.
My goal is to use a personal mission statement much like the Creeds and Confessions of Church history have been used. The Nicene Creed, for example, is a soaring expression of the divinity and humanity of Jesus. The Creed is not Scripture, but all of Christianity points back to this creed as a faithful expression of what the Bible teaches about who Jesus is. If something were found in the creed that contradicts the Bible, it is the creed that would be revised, not Scripture.
A personal mission statement, for the Christian, should function in a similar way. It should be an expression of what the Bible says is the mission and purpose of my life, of what God has intended for me. The statement will be imperfect because it is not Scripture, so it cannot be depended on as if it were Scripture. It will only be as good and reliable inasmuch as it reflects what the Scriptures teach about who I am, why I am here, and what my purpose in life is. If at any point it contradicts Scripture, it is the statement that must be discarded or revised. I cannot set up the mission statement against Scripture.
So I aspire to form a mission statement that sums up what Scripture teaches about how I should live and what I should pursue in this life, and to follow it. And if at any point there is tension between what the Bible says and what my statement says, I know it is time to toss out the statement or revise it to make it in line with the Scriptures. By the way, I invite your feedback as well!
It will take some ironing out, but what I have now personally is:
I want to resource others to discover and love the truth in Jesus.
This is a bare-bones statement that requires more explanation, but this basic truth holds what I think I ought to do with my life.
...the truth in Jesus.
In a world that hates claims of truth, Jesus has claimed a lot of truth. Jesus himself is the truth (John 14:6), and the people of the truth are those who listen to Jesus' voice (John 18:37). In a broken world, Jesus is the only fix. And not only is he the only fix for brokenness and sin, but he also is the divine creator of the universe (Heb. 1:1-3), an otherworldly King (John 18:36) who holds the eternal destiny of every person in his hands. This is what Jesus and the Scriptures teach us, it is what they claim to be true. No one should pass by these lofty and heavy claims without considering whether they are true or not. If you plan to turn left when the road sign says "one way" pointing right, you better seriously consider the truthfulness of what the sign claims.
I am convinced that Jesus is who he says he is. Not just intellectually, but in my soul. I know Jesus is who he says he is, and because he is, I am a child of God saved from the just punishment of my offenses toward him. He has been merciful to me. Jesus died in my place and rose back to new life so that I would have new life. See with what great love he has loved us, that we would be called children of God. (1 John 3:1). This is the truth. I pray daily that the Father would give me grace by his Spirit to live in light of this gracious mercy he has given to me in Jesus Christ.
Because of the importance of what is true, I want to tell other people about what is true. I don't want my life to be in service to anything other than what is most important. Truth is most important because it is ultimately bound up in the existence and character of the Lord of all Creation, Jesus Christ.
...to discover and love the truth in Jesus.
The lost don't find themselves. Like a shepherd after a lost sheep, Jesus comes and find us (Luke 15:1-5). However, in our experience it seems as if we have discovered something when Jesus rescues us from our sin. We see our sin in a way we didn't before. We see the worth and authority and truth in Christ we did not see before. We see the beauty and the trustworthiness of Scripture we did not see before. In our experience, it is as if we have discovered these things, even though it is God who came for us.
I want to be a part of people having this experience. It has happened to me, and in light of discovering and knowing Jesus, my life is centered around him. It could not be any other way. The Christian life begins in hearing this sweet message of mercy, but continues on in growth as we begin to learn and discover more and more of the truth in Christ, recognizing all along that it is God himself who reveals the truth to us, and God himself who first sent us on the search.
But it is not only a discovery of Christ and his truth, but a loving of him that makes a Christian. I want to advocate what the Bible teaches, that we are not only to know Christ but also to obey him out of love for him. "Whoever says, 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). Further, Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15).
This ever-progressing knowing and loving of Christ is the frame of life the Bible gives to us; to know him, to love him, obey him and worship him. Thankfully, God doesn't leave us on our own to do this, but he himself ensures it will happen in the lives of Christians (Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:29-30). I want to cast this vision for myself every day, for my family, and for anyone else I come in contact with.
Resource others to discover and love the truth in Jesus.
I choose the word "resource" because I am not the fountain of truth. Instead, Christ is. I want to point people to him. I am no expert in Christ. Many times, I feel a sense of immaturity in my faith, convictions, Bible-knowledge and personal Christlikeness. I don't desire to "resource" because I am an "expert". Instead, I want to point others to the source of truth and life I have found in Christ, and ask them to come with me. I am no better than the next man or woman, but want to do what God has called all of us Christians to do; to go and make disciples, teaching everything that he has commanded (Matt. 28:19-20).
It is in my nature to resource other people. So I want to harness that tendency for the sake of Christ's command to make disciples. My habit is to point others to resources whether from Scripture, or history, or a book or whatever it may be that will speak truth to them in the hardships, joys, confusion or challenges they may be facing, all with the end goal of rightfully worshipping Christ, loving and obeying him.
I believe this goal is applicable in pretty much any sphere of life, and in any vocation or location. But Lord willing, I would like to be directly involved with this resourcing of others for the larger part of my days. Since this statement of mine is not Scripture, I cannot and will not hold to it as such, freely accepting when and if the Lord leads me to something that does not feel like it lines up. Hopefully, though, it is a good summary of what Scripture requires of me.
Still, I am in school now thinking about where the Lord may lead me, and what he is preparing for. Some of the areas I see that would be in line with this goal are the following: (1) A professor anywhere in the world teaching on themes of Church History, Theology, and languages; (2) working in the publishing industry as an editor for books pertaining to Christian life, thought, and history; (3) An academic librarian; or, (4) a pastor in a local church. Each of these four areas of have excited me at times--in different seasons and in different ways--to consider devoting my life to. I realize as well that my life could be a combination of any of these things (or none of them!) if the Lord so chooses.
Ultimately, Scripture is the source of guidance for life. My hope is that a personal mission statement would be a guiding compass pointing me through the Scriptures rather than an alternate compass pointing in a different way than Scripture. I pray it will help me to live life Coram Deo, as before the face of God.
Have you considered making a personal mission statement?