Purpose Is Everything

Starbucks has a purpose statement. It is written on the backside of every apron. Customers don’t see it. “To inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time”

There is a correlation between the beginning of coffee shops and the start of the industrial revolution. Some historians say there is a cause-and-effect relationship here. I think so. Coffee shop … leads to talking … leads to dreaming … leads to what if … leads to a plan … leads to action … leads to world change.

So you need a purpose statement. Not a mission statement. Not a goal. A statement that transcends time but inspires you for these times and ultimately for the whole world. It answers the basic questions. Why me? Why here? Why now? Why this?

Old Friends

Thinking in terms of evangelism, some suggest that friendship is better than door knocking. That is to downgrade the Great Commission. Apart from the use of the word “all” in the various iterations of the Great Commission, there are verses like these.

Matthew 18:14 “…your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

1 Timothy 2:3-6 “… God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

The Great Commission is about saturation evangelism.

Old friends are more responsive so never lose the, “I would like to invite you to my church” attitude.

But that can’t be the whole story.

New Friends

You must never shy away from talking to people you don’t know yet.

New friends are harder to find so never lose the “Hey, how’s it goin’? Have you heard about it yet? …” attitude.

Both are lost. Both need the Good News. A good purpose statement bridges time and eternity on a global basis.

A good purpose statement must inspire the insiders and be understandable to outsiders even though it is on the inside of our hats, not the outside. (Can they even do that? That would be super cool. How about an embroidered purpose statement on the inside!) The purpose must express the heart of God. It must not be bound to one church but it must belong to at least one church.

Jesus said many things that described his purpose. I will leave it to you to dig them out. But here is one example, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

In contemporary terms, something like “We are drawn to offer true peace to every home.” But better. Stronger. “We offer true peace one home at a time.” Different. Stronger. Capture super-buzz. “Oh yes! That is the church that says … I wonder if you  mean it.” “Why don’t you come and see?”

There are, of course, other ways to move towards the point but power comes in the repetitious branding. 

Home Depot doesn’t say. “You might be able to do it and we have all the stuff you need.” Same facts as, ‘You can do it; we can help.” Memorability is critical to branding. You know exactly what they say. They invest heavily in getting the words just right. Coke used to say, “It’s the real thing.” “Coke adds life.” “Have a Coke and a smile.” Now apparently they say, “Taste the feeling.” What does any of that mean? They try to transcend, “Have a sugary soft drink that will give you a caffeine hit and quench your thirst for now.” When you say the same thing (even nonsense) over and over again in a memorable way people believe it. When people believe it, they act on it. (At least some do some of the time.)

This purpose statement you write will be like branding. By itself, it will drive pew sitters to a pew to sit on elsewhere. The first lesson should always be a “Common Purpose” lesson. Newcomers need to see it and hear it all over the place. They won’t feel comfortable in a church where “we all” have a role in the “Old Friends and New Friends” participation plan. But if they do simply come and sit that is better than them staying seated at home wearing a dip in their couch.

The problem is not people choosing to be observers; it is in them providing too much drag and extra weight. Don’t tilt the budget toward padding the pews; tip it toward reaching the unreached.

Why raise money for a bigger building when you can just have another meeting two hours earlier or later? Creating convenience wasn’t on Jesus’ agenda, why should it be on yours? You don’t need the dead weight in your church; others can take care of those people. Encourage all the other churches, “Maybe XYZ Church would be a better fit for you. They are really good people. Their pastor is really caring. I recommend you check it out.”

So, assuming you have lost people checking you out on Sunday because your people have gone out and drawn them in, that will mean you need to speak with an evangelistically tuned voice. You are going to hear, “But I’m not getting fed enough.” You can say, “Grab a spoon and feed someone yourself.”

So this purpose statement will be a divider. The great sin is purposeful branding without purposeful behavior. I had a nice mug from a church that said, “Loving God completely and other sacrificially” When I raised one eyebrow and said, “Really?” The answer was, “Well that is our aspirational goal.” I was nice and I didn’t say, “Where is the mug with your perspirational goal? That’s the only one that really matters.”

You can’t tell people what to do. You don’t drive people; you draw people. That’s why they call it a tow truck, not a push truck. A great purpose statement will inspire more engagement. It will magnetize people to a great road trip together. You can drive cattle but you have to draw people. And I don’t mean with free candy.

Ask the Lord for one key pregnant word at a time. Mull. Try combinations. Test them on insiders and outsiders alike. Keep working at it until you hear a resounding, “Yes! I can get behind that!”