A Holy Adventure small

Series: A Holy Adventure.

Scriptures: Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 4:12-23.

Preacher: Rev. Jim Shirbroun.

The article below is a brief synopsis, a bit more than an outline, of the sermon I’d planned to preach on February 1, “Developing a Personal Mission Statement”. It was to be the second in a three sermon series, between Rev. Scott Grotewold’s sermon “Your Passion Driven Life” and Rev. Melissa Warren’s concluding sermon “Putting Your Passion and Mission into Action”. But it was cancelled due to the snow storm that day.

As I wrote this, I realized I’ve never tried to distill a sermon into an article. It’s a bit like translating something from one language to another or, perhaps, writing a novel based on a movie! I hope you find something of value here. Please let me know if you’d be interested in a single-session workshop on “Developing a Personal Mission Statement”.

Many of us may think Mission Statements are only for companies or institutions… and that’s certainly their most PUBLIC face! We don’t find too many billboards rented by individuals to publicized their mottos, right?! We won’t see any Super Bowl ads
(@ $4 million dollars for 30 seconds) purchased by common, everyday folks putting their personal mission statements out there for all to see. But billboards, TV commercials and other forms of advertising don’t typically center on the MISSION STATEMENTS of companies, either…unless that mission statement incorporates the product…IS what the company sells.

(At this point in the sermon I’d have given examples of very good…and very BAD corporate mission statements. If you’re interested, simply go do an online search. You might find Hershey’s old mission statement and their new one particularly
interesting. But now, for brevity’s sake, let’s focus on personal mission statements.)

While corporate Mission Statements might be comprised of “The Good, the Banal and the Ugly”, there’s a LOT riding on their mission statements and, therefore, there are folks whose business it is to help corporations design their Mission Statements.

I think we can learn something from them.

A few years ago I became familiar with Laurie Beth Jones. Her Facebook page describes Jones as “an internationally recognized best-selling author, speaker, coach, and trainer”. It continues, “Her business books, written from a spiritual perspective, have received global recognition for the sound, time-proven principles contained within”. In my words, Jones was and is involved in the admirable business of trying to help others incorporate one’s faith practices with their business practices.

It’s been a LONG time since I read any of Jones’ books and I won’t necessarily recommend them but here are a couple which may interest you. Laurie Beth Jones first captured attention, nearly 20 years ago, with her book “Jesus, CEO”. The book is subtitled “Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership” and the publisher’s description says, “Following the example of Jesus, a ‘CEO’ who built a disorganized ‘staff’ of twelve into a thriving enterprise, a handbook for corporate success details a fresh, profound approach to motivating and managing others that translates to any business.”

Jones then wrote “Jesus in Blue Jeans” a book said to “illuminate examples from the scriptures to demonstrate how Jesus can serve as a model for daily life”. In none of her books will you find deep theology or challenging spiritual disciplines and, at times, her writing may veer into triumphalism or “prosperity gospel”, but there are some valuable sections.

The most valuable of Jones’ writings, in my opinion, is “The Path” subtitled, “Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and Life”.

I can’t share TOO much of Jones’ book here. This is an article, not a book AND I don’t want to be sued for copyright infringement, but I’ll hit some of the high and, I hope, helpful points.

The core of Jones’ book asks the reader to select words and phrases from long lists of areas of interest, verbs, adjectives, etc. and, once those are assembled, with a little tweaking for grammar…VIOLA…You have a pretty decent mission statement. You’ll have to find Jones’ book to get her word lists and the full process but there are, of course, other ways we might craft our personal mission statements. Any methods will take time and some serious effort, but the end product will, I pray, be worth it.

You might sit, with pen and paper (or computer) and contemplate and respond to questions like these:

  • What is my life about?
  • What is at the core of my being?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What excites me or exasperates me most?
  • What are some of my greatest gifts?
  • How have I used them in the past?
  • What am I currently doing, how am I currently involved in living out my passions, in sharing my gifts?
  • What opportunities are around me, or just around the corner, where I might do these things?

As we spend some time contemplating these questions I’d hope we might not simply ask “What is my life about”, but further refine, further sharpen that question by asking something like…

  • “Because of my relationship with God, what is my life about?” or,
  • “As I look at the love of God shown to me in the life, teachings, sacrifices and resurrection of Christ, what is my life about?”

We could, likewise, fortify or strengthen the other questions by looking at them through a God-colored lens…

  • “As a follower of Christ, what do I stand for?” or,
  • “As a beloved child of God, who am I called to be, what am I being called to do?”

Our Mission Statement will, I believe it SHOULD, change. We might accomplish our mission, of course, or at least make significant progress on it and/or hand it over to someone else OR we might realize our mission, our emphasis, our path has changed enough that it’s time to write a new mission statement. Perhaps an annual review, maybe on our birthday, maybe at the beginning of the year, would be appropriate for most of us.

I’ll close with what I consider to be three important insights regarding our life’s mission.

Many of you have heard (or read) me referring to Frederick Buechner on this topic, but it’s so very apt. Buechner said, “the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done… The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”.

That is, to me, so beautiful and, again, our understanding of either part of that formula will probably change over time.

John Shelby Spong is famous for this maxim which I think has great value as we consider our own mission statements:  “Live fully, love wastefully and be all that you can be”. It’s a simple statement and a very provocative and powerful one. I encourage you to search out Spong’s detailed sharing of what he means by it.

Finally, our (middle) son, Greg, is doing graduate work in non-profit management at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington, Indiana. Greg texted me the other day excited to tell me that one of his professors shared the following quote (which I covered in another Communicator article recently). It too bears FREQUENT repeating and is, I think, a helpful guide as we all seek to develop, constantly refine and, most important, live out our personal mission…

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”


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