On not mistaking mission for vision


It is one year since we put together the Holy Trinity “vision” statement. My recent training and reading has helped me see that in fact, we did the right thing but called it the wrong thing. What we have done is produce a “Mission statement.”

The mission statement contains the eternal, unchanging values of God and purposes of Christ’s church. Vision is something else. Vision is the goal we work toward and which is specific for this time and place. Mission is what the church is for and vision is what the church will be, God willing.

In Advanced Strategic Planning, Aubery Malphurs clarifies the difference between mission and vision in the following ways:

  1. The mission statement is a statement of what church is supposed to be doing, while the vision is a snapshot picture of it.
  2. The mission is used for planning where the church is going; the vision is used for communicating where the church is going.
  3. A mission statement must be short enough to fit on a T-shirt. The vision statement, however, goes into detail and can range from a single paragraph to several pages in length. [I think we have four mission statements at Holy Trinity, linked together in one paragraph.  Each one is memorable on its own and we must not underestimate the ability people have to memorise things.  Whatever vision we come up with it must make sense in light of our mission statement.]
  4. The purpose of the mission is to inform all of the ministry’s functions. The purpose of the vision is to inspire people to accomplish the ministry’s functions.
  5. The mission involves knowing. It helps your people know where they are going. The vision involves seeing. It helps people see where they are going. If people cannot see a goal, it probably will not happen.
  6. The mission comes from the head―it is more intellectual in origin. It supplies knowledge. The vision comes from the heart―it is more emotional in origin. It supplies passion.
  7. Logically, the mission precedes the vision. In their development, the vision grows out of and develops detail around the mission, fleshing it out.
  8. The mission has a broad, general focus, while the vision has a narrow focus. It singles out the details and specifics of the ministry community.
  9. Mission development is a science―it can be taught. The vision, however, is an art―it is more caught. Either you catch it or you miss it altogether.
  10. Finally, the mission is communicated visually; it is written down somewhere. The vision is communicated verbally. You hear it preached. An example in appendix G is Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” vision. Hearing him preach it has much greater impact than reading; it off the page.
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2 Responses to On not mistaking mission for vision

  1. James Oakley says:

    This is all really helpful stuff Neil. I’ve still not found time to read Malphurs, so having some of your distillations blogged is extremely useful.

  2. Martin Hill says:

    I think this is a distinction that needs to be made Neil. Having studied the development of the emerging church conversation, two of its core values are to follow the Biblical narrative and to be missional (the first being to be Christ-centred). The discussion about what constitutes the mission of God comes from need to engage the Biblical narrative dynamically in the life of the church. The desire to engage others in the faith of Christ is the third motivating factor. From the first, however, comes the vision! Too many churches in modernity, of all theological persuasions, have taken their eyes from Jesus and constructed religion that serves its own or another purpose. The purpose of being centered on Jesus Christ is simply this, and Martin Luther King called it the gospel in a nutshell, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that none that believe in him should perish but have eternal life.’ The vision we should hold as we engage the mission of God in our communities is this! Peace to you <

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