Making A Mission Statement (Part 4)
Well, we’re back at it this week (all this month, actually), and we’re continuing in a thought about making your own mission statement for your life. We’ve been going through the chapter “What’s Your Mission? How Not to Waste Your Life” in the book “What’s Best Next” by Matt Perman…. A book that I highly recommend because of all the value chalked full in it. So let’s pick up where we left off last week. And if you haven’t done so yet, you’ll want to read the first three parts starting at Part 1.
Creating Your Mission
How do you state your mission in a way that is specific to you and takes into account the specific
things that God has most laid on your heart?
As we saw earlier, there are three main components to a good mission:
1. Core purpose
2. Core principles
3. Core beliefs
We will go through these three components of a mission statement using the Sermon on the Mount
as our foundation. There are many places where we could go (including Philippians, like we saw
earlier), but we are going to go here because the Sermon on the Mount was given by Jesus as a
charter for the Christian life. The entire sermon is about the purpose of life. It is our mission
We know this because Jesus makes this clear right off the bat by beginning the sermon with the
beatitudes, which tell us whom we should regard as “blessed”: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,”
“blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” and so forth (Matt. 5:3 – 11). “Blessed”
is biblical terminology for what philosophers call “the good life” — life as it is meant to be lived;
life that is lived in harmony with our ultimate purpose. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes, “The Sermon on
the Mount says . . . that if you really want to be happy, here is the way. This and this alone is the type
of person who is truly happy, who is really blessed. This is the sort of person who is to be
Your core purpose states your overall reason for existence.
This is where you state the biblical purpose of life in your own words, and in a way that reflects
your uniqueness and that applies it to you. As we saw earlier, this gets at the purpose for everything
you do more than what specific course you are to take in life. Here’s how Jesus states your purpose:
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your
Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
There’s the ultimate purpose of life: to glorify God. And, we are specifically to flesh that out by
living in such a way that others glorify God (not us!) because of our good works.
Jesus’ mention of good works here is helpful because it touches a bit on the what and not just the
why. If we focus only on the why, it often becomes too abstract. We are left knowing our purpose for
being here, but we aren’t sure how that actually applies to the realities of daily life. So Jesus tells us
what specifically glorifies God. His answer is: doing good works.
John Piper articulates it well when he states, “God created me — and you — to live with a
single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion — namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and
displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”
I love how God-centered Piper is. And note that he hammers home the importance of
understanding the purpose of your life in terms of a single, all-embracing purpose. This purpose is to
glorify God (passionately!) by displaying his supreme excellence in all spheres of life.
The one thing that I don’t think Piper makes clear enough, however, is how we display God’s
excellence in all spheres of life. But Jesus tells us the answer: we display God’s excellence in all
spheres of life by doing good for others to God’s glory. And as we saw in chapter 1, these good
works are not simply rare and special things we do, but anything we do in faith — even making
dinner and going to meetings.
There are lots of different ways you can state your purpose, and it is important to state it in a way
that captures your uniqueness. In reflecting on how you want to state your purpose, you might want to
reflect not only on what Jesus says here but also on the passages in the sidebar earlier in this chapter.
You can also look at how I’ve stated it or examples from Edwards, Piper, and the Westminster
Confession. I also list some books at the end that are helpful for developing a biblical vision for life.
This is where we get more into the practical realm. We aren’t yet at the level of what specific course
you are seeking to take in life (that’s the level of life goals, in the next chapter), but rather the guiding
principles by which you will live your life.
The core principles section of your mission statement contains your answers to this question:
What main principles am I going to use to guide my life?
Sometimes it is suggested that you list your values. Listing your core principles is basically a
slightly adjusted form of doing this. I never found it helpful to list my values because there were
always so many I wanted to list, and once you get beyond seven, it’s just too many. For organizations,
I find it easy to define values, but for myself, I never feel good limiting myself to seven.
You can try to list your core values (love, family, freedom, radical generosity, etc.) and keep it to
seven if you want, but I find it more helpful just to list my top guiding principles and not worry about
keeping it down to just a few.
Jonathan Edwards is a good model here. As I mentioned earlier, when he was nineteen he wrote
his famous “Resolutions,” which was essentially a list of principles taken from the Scriptures and
applied in a way that was specific to his life. He ultimately had seventy resolutions. This is not a bad
model at all; in many ways it is better than trying to distill seven core values.
Obviously we all have hundreds of principles by which we live. You don’t need to state them all,
or even state seventy like Edwards did. Just state the ones that stand out to you most and resonate with
you most. Something passes muster as a core principle in your life if it is something you would hold
to even if you were punished for it — even if it were not advantageous to you in an external sense.
For example, since the Sermon on the Mount is given to us by Jesus as a charter for our lives, and
is given as a command and not a suggestion, the Sermon on the Mount should influence our principles
Jesus tells us, for example, that we are to put serving others and being reconciled to others above
religious ceremony (Matt. 5:23 – 24); he says our default disposition is to practice radical generosity
and not self-protection (Matt. 5:42; see also the parallel in Luke 6:32 – 36), and that this extends
even to those who harm us (Matt. 5:38 – 41) and even our enemies (Matt. 5:43 – 48). In doing so, we
are imitating God (Matt. 5:44, 48).
Jesus gives us many other commands by which we are to live, but he keeps it from being
complicated because everything can be summed up in one statement: “So whatever you wish that
others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).
As we’ve seen, that is to be our guiding principle for all of life. It is another statement of our
mission, in a sense. And it is especially helpful because it states not only what we are to do (love our
neighbor) but how (by doing unto them as we would have them do unto us). In everything we do, all
day long, we are to be proactive to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This tells us
how to act in any and every situation, and every other principle is a manifestation of this one.
When listing your principles, you could list them in a straight list or in categories. If you put them
in categories, the first grouping could be “overall life principles,” which consists of things that apply
to all categories — your life as a whole. Then you can have specific categories, such as good works,
time management, relationships, suffering, and so forth.
If you just listed your top twenty guiding principles based on what God has revealed about our
purpose and what glorifies him, you would be doing well.
This is essential for laying a gospel foundation underneath your mission. It answers the last two
questions, which concern your identity (who you are) and ultimate destination (where you are going to
end up at the end of all this).
Theologically Informed Values
Here’s what Bubba Jennings, a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, had to say when I asked
him about personal productivity and leadership:
“We emphasize what we value. What I value determines how I’m going to prioritize. So
when I’m talking with people or trying to determine why I should or shouldn’t do something, the
paradigm I go through is identifying what God’s Word says, then the theological convictions that
are related to that, and then our values. Then we prioritize based on our values, and whatever is
most important will determine what our activities are. There ought to be deep theological
convictions that drive our values.”
The gospel is the truth that God accepts us and gives us a title to heaven on the basis of the death
and resurrection of Christ, which we receive through faith and not through our works (including living
The gospel is built into the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is not saying “live this way and you will
be my follower.” All of us have already fallen short of the Sermon on the Mount, and you cannot live
it in your own power. Jesus is saying, “You have to first acknowledge your sinfulness and come to me
for life, and then this is how you are to live.”
That is the meaning of the first thing Jesus says, the very first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in
spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). To be “poor in spirit” is to acknowledge our
utter bankruptcy before God — that we have nothing to offer him on our own and must come to him
for forgiveness and righteousness. To seek to live these principles without first coming to Jesus for
salvation and a new heart completely overlooks the Beatitudes and is an abuse of the Sermon on the
The ultimate foundation of your mission is not your character or even correct principles. It’s what
God has done for you in Christ and the fact that, if you believe in Christ, God is now your Father
(Matt. 6:9; 6:26; 6:32; 7:11).
Further, knowing that heaven is secured for us and that we are going to end up there with Jesus
forever motivates because it casts a vision for where we are going — and does so on the basis of
what Jesus did, not on what we do.
Knowing where we are headed gives us the confidence and the direction to live as we ought to
live. That vision helps us see that our purpose here is not to abandon the practical affairs of life and
only seek to “save souls,” nor is it to ignore spiritual realities and live as though only this life
matters. Rather, it is to live in this world from the perspective of the next. The joy that this hope
produces, in turn, frees us up to spend our lives radically for the good of others and the glory of God.
We’ll finish up this series next week with the final part of this chapter, and some thoughts for you to think on.
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