Find Your Mission and Focus Your InfluenceRelated Media
Please note, this article is from a talk at the Dallas Theological Seminary 2005 Women's Leadership Conference, but the video is no longer available on the DTS site.>
I am sure that most of you have seen Apollo 13. These three astronauts are on a mission. But they are not alone in that mission. Everyone at mission command is part of the mission as well. You could define their mission as getting three men to the moon. Each person, whether onboard on in the command center, has a specific part of the mission to complete. They are focused entirely on the mission.
We as believers are on mission for God. Together we work toward His kingdom program here on earth. We each are responsible for our part in that mission. When we discover what that personal mission is, we must give it our focus in order to maximize our influence and to accomplish the task.
I really do believe in what I am sharing with you today. In a sense I happened upon the truth that I should focus my influence where God has designed and sent me. I cannot remember anyone telling me that. I probably did it out of burnout when I attempted to take on too many things. Or I was simply frustrated by taking on ministry and activities for which I was not designed.
We are going to look at four things today:
1. Defining mission
2. Focusing your influence
3. Finding your God-given mission
4. Writing a personal mission statement
We start with defining mission.
I. Defining Mission
- It is the big picture of what God has called you to uniquely contribute with the life He has given you.
- It is a broad umbrella that covers your entire life, both career and personal.
- Some use the term “call” and some use “vision” for the same concept. Read carefully to determine if it is the same.
The way I will refer to mission today is not a specific short-term mission. Consider the difference in going on a short-term mission trip and becoming a lifetime missionary. I have been on 3 short-term mission trips and I have never really changed my life over them. There were a few adjustments for a few weeks, but nothing long lasting. On the other hand, long-term missionaries’ assignments are far-reaching and take place over many years. Their focus in life becomes this mission that they have. They adjust everything in their lives to the mission. That is the kind of mission we are talking about today.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what mission is not so that we don’t confuse it!
- A job—I am the Women’s Minister at NBC. That is not my mission. I cannot see my mission as simply to lead the women of NBC. Although my job should be part of my mission, it is not all of my mission. I have only been leading women’s ministries in a church for 5 years, but I have been about fulfilling my mission for many years. The day will come when I no longer have the job but the mission will continue.
- A role, such as wife or mother—when we see our missions in this light, we are in trouble because those are roles that may or may not stay with us. If we can lose the role because of death or estrangement or other loss, we lose the mission and our life-purpose. If I had seen myself only in terms of my motherhood, I would not be lost, feeling purposeless because my children are grown and out of the house.
- Necessarily grand or highly visible. Some of you may have a mission to love and care for the hurting and the outcast in practical ways. That will never involve a highly visible role. Few may ever notice that you are busy doing your mission. But it is a mission that reflects the love of God to both believers and unbelievers. It involves Christ-like care for people in need. I can think of some women who serve me and the other women at our Bible study every Tuesday. They are not as visible as I am, but their contributions are as important as mine. They are the hands of Christ extended with warmth and welcome to others. Perhaps such a woman could say her mission is to make the love of Jesus real to those within her sphere of influence by creating a hospitable and warm atmosphere.
- Vision, but you need vision to accomplish it (I am defining vision here as a picture of the future in a particular sphere of life. Vision focuses on results while mission focuses on actions. I recommend highly Andy Stanley’s book, Visioneering when you want to look at the topic of vision.) When I think of mission, I think of Noah who was called to be a witness of God’s truth. As he built the ark, he told them of the coming judgment; yet, there were no results. No one came to repentance before God. Only his sons and their wives responded and were saved from the flood. Noah became a witness to his own generation and to all of us who have followed.
Mission is not about results.
Richard Nelson Bolles writes in his book How to Find Your Mission in Life, “As the stone does not always know what ripples it has caused in the pond whose surface it impacts, so neither we nor those who watch our life will always know what we have achieved by our life and by our Mission. It may be that by the grace of God we helped bring about a profound change for the better in the lives of other souls around us, but it also may be that this takes place beyond our sight, or after we have gone on. And we may never know what we have accomplished, until we see him face-to-face after this life is past.”
Mission as defined this way does not change. It is given by God as a life-purpose. If it were defined by roles or jobs or results, it would change. We may not understand what it is or even define it well, but it is God’s purpose for your life as a believer.
Bolles defines mission this way: “to exercise that Talent which you particularly came to earth to use—your greatest gift, which you most delight to use, in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has caused to appeal to you the most, and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world.”
Are there any questions about the way we are defining mission today?
The next thing we need to discuss is—
II. Focusing Your Influence
We see models of this in the lives of Jesus and of Paul.
Jesus gave several mission-type statements throughout his life. I found 7 that I would call mission-type statements.
1. Mt. 9:10; Luke 5:32 “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NET)
2. Mt. 20:28; Mark 10:45 “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NET)
3. Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (NET)
4. John 9:34 “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may gain their sight, and the ones who see may become blind.” (NET)
5. John 12:47 “I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (NET)
6. John 18:37 “For this reason I as born, and for this reason I came into the world—to testify to the truth.” (NET)
7. John 10:10 “I came that they might have life and might have it abundantly.” (NET)
Although Jesus described His mission in several ways, depending upon the situation and the audience, they involve similar ideas. He came to save people and to serve them by giving His life for them and by preaching the truth to them.
We see that Jesus focused His influence in the area of His mission.
Luke 4:42-44 “And when day came, He departed and went to a lonely place; and the multitudes were searching for Him, and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from going away from them. But He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.’” (NASB)
Luke 9:51 “Now when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set our resolutely to go to Jerusalem.” (NET)
At the end of Jesus’ life He was able to say in John 17:4 “I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (NET)
He did not do everything that He could have done. He didn’t heal all the sick; he didn’t preach to everyone; He didn’t bring everyone to faith. He never traveled far from home. But He did all that He was sent to do. He completed His mission. If He had failed to focus on that mission and allowed others to distract Him, He would not have been able to fulfill what He was supposed to do.
Let’s look at Paul’s example quickly:
In Acts 26 Paul described his conversion experience to King Agrippa. In that account he reported how Jesus had given him a mission.
Acts 26:15b-18 “The Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this reason, to designate you in advance as a servant and witness to the things you have seen and to the things in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (NET)
Paul kept this mission in mind throughout his life. In his last letter written shortly before he was martyred, he told Timothy that he had completed his mission.
2 Tim. 4:6-8 “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (NASB)
Paul finished the course. There was a lot that Paul didn’t do, but he focused on teaching and preaching the gospel to the gentiles, just as Jesus commissioned him to do.
When we focus on our missions, as Jesus and Paul did, we have to let some other opportunities and activities go. If we understand that God empowers us where He sends u, we realize that focus on mission maximizes our influence. I do more to influence others when I am about the work that God has specifically designed me to do than when I am doing anything else, as good as it may be.
Why don’t we focus our influence as Jesus and Paul did? What are the hindrances that keep us distracted rather than focused?
- Pleasing people
Paul had this to say about pleasing people:
Gal. 1:10 “Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!” (NET)
This is a big one for women, I think. A friend or someone whom you admire calls and asks you to take on a job or a task. Although you don’t think it quite fits your mission, you agree because you are so honored to be asked, out of all the women that could have been asked. You don’t want to disappoint your friend.
Or perhaps you would love to do this assignment with this friend because you enjoy her company so you agree, although it is not a good fit for you. You are pleasing people and even yourself when you do that. If God has not called you to the task, it is not one you should agree to do.
A second hindrance to focus is the
- Desire for recognition/ advancement
Matt. 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before me to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (NASB)
I have certainly been guilty of this one. I can think of several times when I took on a speaking engagement that really didn’t fit me because I had this great opportunity to speak before a group. I am just not a dinner or retreat speaker, and I should always just say no when asked to do those kinds of things.
You could be swayed by the desire to advance in your working situation or even on a church staff. I think it is especially hard for women to turn down good opportunities when they are put before us, even if the job doesn’t fit who and what God made us to be. We make the opportunity more important than the mission.
Finally, a big hindrance for us is always guilt.
As we read earlier, when Jesus was approached with the demands of the crowds, He focused on His mission instead of giving in to guilt.
We often begin falling into this one with our parents. My mother is a master in using guilt to get me to do what she wants. I learned early on that she expected me to act out of guilt.
I went to a relatively small church for several years. When we joined, I was informed that all of the women did VBS. So I guess that I was the first not to do it because I didn’t allow guilt to be my motivation. That was not my ministry, and I only had time to focus on what God had called me to do. If I had given in to guilt or had done it to please people rather than God, I would have failed to give my best in the area where God called me to be.
I have found this principle of focusing on mission be the easiest way to quickly eliminate a lot of opportunities. As a rule I do not do the things that do not fit my mission. Now that doesn’t mean that all I do is within my mission. God calls all of us to share our faith, to encourage, to carry one another’s burdens, to pray, to help, to serve, and many other things. That is the mission of the church at large, and we are to participate.
But in what arena? Most of my evangelism is done when I am teaching a large group or when I am on a one-on-one with someone I know. I do not use up my Saturdays going with our evangelism team on DART to share the gospel with those who are waiting for trains. If I did that, I would not have time to do the ministry God has called me to do while prioritizing God and family. But I am not relieved of the responsibility to proclaim the good news. I just don’t make that my ministry focus.
Have you ever thought about the fact that a good thing can be a sin to you if God is not calling you to do it? If you are acting for any other reason, it is wrong because it distracts you from your focus. If you are motivated by guilt or pride or to please others rather than because it is what God has called you to do, you are doing it for the wrong reason, and it is sin.
I read somewhere that if we fulfill our missions, our lives will be out of balance. Jesus’ life was; Paul’s was. We aren’t called to a balanced life but to a life of purpose. We are to fulfill that purpose. Sometimes that means that we don’t live completely balanced lives. There are some things that just don’t fit into my life right now. I love to read and would like to just sit down and read more mysteries, but that has to give in to my mission.
Katie Brazelton, who wrote Pathway to Purpose for Women says, “God’s purpose will cost you your life in the sense that you must choose to die to self and accept his plan. It will cost you your life, too, in that you will be spent and used up in service to God. It will stretch you to such an impossible degree that you will fail without Him.”
Group Assignment: Let’s talk about focusing our influence. Let’s all pair up. Which of the hindrances is most likely to keep you from maximizing your influence? Why?
Now we want to move on. My guess is that the next area is the reason that most of you are here. You are unsure of your mission.
III. Finding Your Unique God-given Mission (John 17:18)
The first thing to say here is that you are probably already doing something related to your mission, but you may not realize it.
If you want to know what God desires you to focus on, you must first prioritize Him over the mission.
The Mission-giver over the mission (Mark 3:14)
Richard Nelson Bolles in his book How to Find Your Mission in Life describes this priority as the first of three missions in life: “to seek to stand hour by hour in the conscious presence of God, the One from whom your Mission is derived.”
This is God’s purpose for all people. Our love relationship with God trumps the specific personal missions given to us.
Os Guinness says in The Call, “We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone. We are not called first to special work but to God. The key to answering the call is to be devoted to no one and to nothing above God Himself.”
We see this priority in Mark 3:14. It says that Jesus appointed twelve (whom he named apostles), so that they would be with him and he could sent them to preach.
The twelve were called to preach but more importantly, they were called to be with Jesus. That was the priority. That was how they learned from Him and received His instructions. Being with Jesus was the most important part of their training course. And even though Jesus intended to send them to preach, it was a while before he did. They spent a lot of time with him before they went out on their first journey.
How can we do Jesus’ work, the mission to which we are called, when we do not make Him our priority? That may be a big reason we are unsure of our missions. We don’t know how to listen to the One who sends us.
Not only do we need to prioritize the Mission-giver over the mission, we need to prioritize being over doing.
Being over doing
Os Guinness says, “Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, in everything should thin speak, live and act entirely for him.”
In the passages that give qualifications of deacons and elders, we notice they are character qualities rather than skills or gifts. God makes character maturity a priority when He uses people. How can we bring glory to God unless we are more concerned with being the kind of women He can use than we are in finding a special assignment? First, we must be the kind of women whom God can use before He will trust us to do His mission.
We see this principle in Moses’ life. In Stephen’s sermon he said that Moses felt a call to liberate his people. But he was not the man he should be, as became clear when he tried to use murder to accomplish the mission. It took another 40 years for him to be ready to fulfill his mission from God.
What are some specific steps to take so that we prioritize our character over our work?
Heal from the past and then move into the present
Heb. 12:1-2a “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” (NASB)
You may not ready to fulfill your mission because you are defeated and enslaved by your past and its sins or its hardships. If so, you need to deal with the sin and heal from the hurts so that God can use you and the past as part of your mission. Are there people in your past who need forgiving? Are there relationships that need healing? Are there hurts that you must face with God? Once you do that, God will use the past as you move ahead with your mission.
The second thing you always need to work on is character.
Grow in character
Growing in character is a lifelong journey, and we never quit working on this. It’s not a to-do list that we accomplish and then set aside. God is still working on me and I have a long way to go. I should always prioritize my personal growth over my mission. I can never stop reading the Scriptures and letting God speak into my life. I can never stop seeking the input of those who know me best to see what changes I need to make. It is not a matter of arriving but it is a constant process.
The next item listed belongs under character, but because of its importance in being prepared to do mission, I wrote it separately.
Grow in faithfulness & excellence
In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul instructs Timothy as a pastor: “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NASB)
It is the faithful to whom Timothy is to entrust the ministry. That quality is very important if we are to be trusted with something more. God values faithfulness in the little things before giving bigger things to us. That theme runs through many of Jesus’ parables.
As far as excellence, God calls us to do our best in everything.
Col. 3:17 “And whatever you do in work or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him..” (NET)
The work that we do in every arena of life is to be done as if to God. Our work, whether it is cleaning toilets or selling stock or being in full-time ministry is worship. It is done for the glory and pleasure of God.
Other qualities where we must grow are love and servanthood. We must be willing to do whatever it is that God tells us to do. If that means that I love the unlovely or serve the selfish, I must be ready to do so.
Grow in love and servanthood
You are all familiar with the love chapter of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13. It is interesting that the context of that chapter is spiritual gifts. This chapter is sandwiched between two chapters dealing with spiritual gifts. The first few verses are important for us as women who want to fulfill a mission: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
There is no point in doing the mission for which we are called if love is not at its core. Those of us who are task-oriented must learn that people are more important than the task. We must act in love toward others.
Jesus said that true leaders are servants.
Lk. 22:25-26 “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.”
If you want to increase your influence, grow in your attitude of servanthood.
There are many other character qualities that I could have listed. I chose these because their lack could be the reason that God has not shown you a mission.
So you want to know your mission. Let’s say you are prioritizing the Mission-giver over the mission and being over doing. How do you discover your mission?
Jeff Lawrence, with whom I work, suggested this intersection of three circles and I thought it was really good as a visual explanation of how to find your mission. Where the 3 intersect is where you hope to be. I wish I could be technical enough to have that little spot colored, but I never could figure out how to do it!
The first circle is your divine design. That involves your personality, your abilities, your motivations, your preferences, and your spiritual giftedness.
In order to focus your influence in this intersection, you must discover your divine design.
Learn about your divine design
In The Power of Uniqueness Arthur Miller identified the centrality of using your design. He said, “What lies at the heart of a seven-days-a-week faith: It is using one’s endowed giftedness to serve the world with excellence and, through that service, to love and honor God! The calling that fully engages what God has given you is a holy task!”
Whenever and in whatever arena we fully use the giftedness that God has given us, we bring Him glory because He is the one who designed and created us.
Os Guinness says, “The truth is not that God is finding us a place for our gifts but that God has created us and our gifts for a place of his choosing—and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.”
So how do you discover your unique God-given design so that you find the place where God intends you to be? There are always tests that you can take, but testing is very limited and not always accurate. I suggest trying some other things.
Study your spiritual giftedness
See what the Bible says about the gifts. The lists may not be exhaustive but when put together they may be. Remember that spiritual gifts are New Testament and so they come with the indwelling of God’s Spirit. There were some ways that God’s Spirit worked through people in the Old Testament, but spiritual gifts are specifically of the new covenant.
Here are some questions that may help you determine at least where to start looking for your giftedness.
What attracts you?
What sounds like you would enjoy it? I remember how I wanted to be able to teach like my pastor’s wife. I was attracted to that.
What gifts do others see in me?
I think this is really helpful, but I would ask someone who knows something about the subject of spiritual gifts. Otherwise you may hear that you are gifted at listening or at small talk. It may be true but those aren’t spiritual gifts.
There is a woman who leads one of our small groups. She is probably in her 60’s. After I had been at Northwest a few months, we had a lesson on spiritual gifts. She told me that she didn’t know what hers was. Well, I knew. Hers was obvious to me because I had seen her in action and I knew something about spiritual gifts. She was so excited to learn that she had the gift of exhortation, and the truth of what I told her has been confirmed over and over. She shared with me several weeks ago that she now makes time for women who call her because she realizes that they need encouragement and that is what God has called her to do.
I have placed on the table an assignment that I have done with several groups as we studied spiritual gifts. If you are unsure about yours, pick one of these up and use it. Instead of focusing on a test, written from someone’s interpretation of the gifts, this assignment has you interview some other people.
Another question to consider as you think about your spiritual gifts:
Where do I have success?
If God is working in me to empower me in that area, there should be a measure of success. That doesn’t mean that when I teach, I become Beth Moore with thousands of women wanting to hear me. It does mean that God uses me in the lives of those in my Bible studies, even if that number is very small.
What gives me joy and purpose?
I am convinced that your giftedness should give you an inner joy. As you walk where God designed you to be, you will sense that God is using you for His purposes.
Try different ministries
There is really no substitute for this. Sometimes you just cannot figure out your design until you try different things.
Before I knew anything about this subject, I was part of a young women’s group at my church. All we did as a group was meet once a month and listen to someone talk. It bothered me. So I got us as a group organized for ministry. I assigned us to visit people in nursing homes and to set up a clothes closet. The problem was that when I did those things myself, I hated it. I had nothing to say to the people in the nursing home. I had no clue. I don’t think I made them feel any better. Who wants someone from the church to come by and be boring? But I learned a great lesson. I do not have the gift of mercy. God has not called me to minister to the hurting or the sick. I am terrible at it! But I am good at figuring out how to organize a group to get things done.
Consider what you learn from the past
Think through the things that you have enjoyed or from which you have received a sense of accomplishment. What motivated you? What caused you to feel that you had accomplished something? Do you see a pattern as you think through your lifetime?
But we are complex creatures. We are not merely one-dimensional. Spiritual giftedness is only one part of the way we are designed by God for His purposes. There are other aspects to our giftedness.
Other areas where we need to understand our divine design is that of our preferences, our motivations, and our other abilities. We are more than our personalities and our spiritual gifts. We are each motivated by different things. Some of us are motivated by a tangible reward, such as money. Some of us are motivated by fixing a problem. Some like to create something new. The work and ministry we do should fit this part of our design as well.
Map out your preferences, motivations, & abilities
At the end of this handout is a list of some resources which you may be interested in checking out of a library or purchasing. The one called The Power of Uniqueness gives you some insight into this area of divine design and may be worth working through. In the appendix the author gives questions to consider in discovering other areas of divine design.
The giftedness center has a booth downstairs. This is a place to get help understanding your divine design.
Most of these things I sort of fell into because I didn’t have the benefit of these resources. No one told me to think through the situations in which I work well or to consider what motivates me. But through the years I did more and more of the things that I enjoyed under the conditions that I enjoyed. I stayed with the things that worked well for me.
Assignment: Go back to your partner and share for 2 minutes each what you know about your divine design. Do you know your spiritual gifts? What things do you like to do? What do others tell you that you do well? What motivates you? Do you like to work with people or with tasks? Are you energized by people or by solitude? Do you want to organize others to do the work or do it yourself? Or do you want to have the idea and have others implement it?
The first circle that helps us find mission is divine design. The second circle is the desires of the heart. Some may call this passion. I don’t know why I don’t like that word. When someone asks me about my passion, I can’t seem to answer. So we will go with the biblical word, desire.
Consider the desires of your heart
Ps. 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I believe that God has given you desires that accompany your mission. It will not be the last thing that you want to do. That should make some of you feel better. Without the desire to go, God will not send you to Siberia. What does this desire look like?
- It may seem like passion for
A particular group of people
I don’t have a desire to help a certain group of people, but I do have a heart for challenging others to live according to the truths of God’s word. I suppose it’s a cause or a need. I see Christians who have no sense of the wisdom in God’s word. I want to share that with them.
I also have a desire for training up a new generation of leaders. That is why I am here doing this seminar today. The opportunity fit my design and my desires.
You may find your desires because you see the lack of something.
- It may surface because you see a lack
What is bothering you?
What needs to be done?
What is essential?
I was in a church where the Bible was not being taught. We were getting positive thinking instead. How that bothered me! My soul was not at rest because the people were not being fed. I knew that they could not make it long-term without the truth of the scriptures.
I also am bothered by disorganization, as far as the large organization is concerned. I like simple rather than complicated. I like to be sure there is a purpose in what people do.
Maybe you are hurting because no one seems to be caring for the women around you who have big hurts. Maybe you see that something is a mess organizationally. Maybe in your job situation you see there is no concern for accountability.
Think through the things that bother you. That should clue you into your desires.
Assignment: What are the desires of your heart? What bothers you? What lack do you see? What draws you as far as desires are concerned? What are you passionate about? What would you like to fix? Talk to your neighbor about some of those. Talk about your involvement in meeting those needs.
So your divine design and your desires meet. Then someone calls you with an opportunity. Analyze every opportunity that comes your way. We are always so pious to say that we will pray about it, and I am not saying that we don’t. But God wants you to use your brain as well. God’s leading doesn’t have to be some deep feeling that God is speaking to you.
- Analyze your opportunity
It is in line with the way that God has been leading me and working through and with me?
If you have not studied Experiencing God, be sure and do that. In it Henry Blackaby suggests to look back at every time in the past when you knew that God led you. He calls them spiritual markers. Sometimes it is easier to see from hindsight that God was involved than it is at decision time. Anyway, think through all the times that God has clearly worked and led you. They are like the markers that the Jews set up to remind them of God’s work in their nation. Blackaby says that God works in our lives in line with what He has already done in the past.
When I first studied Experiencing God, I went through this process. I spent a lot of time on it, but it was worth it. It helped me stay directed on my mission. I could see how consistently God had worked in my life to put me where I could teach the Bible. Looking back I could see God’s hand placing me in strategic situations where I was leading others even when I didn’t intend to do so.
For more than two and a half years I was the Director of the Women’s Ministry at another church where we had been members for a long time. When that staff position became vacant, the pastor approached me to take it. I could look at my spiritual markers and know that it was in line with the ways that God had been using me and leading me.
Another helpful question from Henry Blackaby is:
- Do I see God already at work?
One of the great things about Experiencing God is that it focuses on the fact that mission is always about God and what He wants to do in the world. If God is about to act in a situation where He is calling us to join Him in His work, He is already busy in preparation and we should be able to see His hand in some way.
About three years ago, someone from Northwest Bible Church called to see if I would consider coming to lead the Women’s Ministry. The search committee wanted to interview me. When God opens a door like that, it indicates that He is at work doing something. They sought me out; I did not contact them. So I had to go forward and at least consider whether He was leading me there.
In analyzing the opportunity that lies before you, you must not only consider your spiritual markers and whether you see God at work, but you must also think about your season in life.
- Does it fit my season in life?
There are opportunities that have all the makings of mission but come at the wrong time. You need to consider your family situation.
My family situation
We are not to neglect our responsibilities at home or with our families. All of us are called to faithfulness in those things. They are priority over ministry and work. But there is a way to be involved in mission in every season of life. The opportunities that you have may be more narrow and look differently than they will later. I did not go to seminary until my children were gone. I did not work on a church staff until 5 years ago. But I always worked on mission. It just looks very different today than it did then.
Considering your family situation means talking with your husband about it. Working with him through the demands and the time constraints involved are very important.
I do not believe that God tells me to get involved in anything that Gary is not for! That is part of our oneness in God’s design for marriage. He uses Gary to help direct me to the right opportunities.
When my kids were in preschool, I had an opportunity to join a civic organization. I knew that it would be a good place for many of the skills that I had, and it was known as a good training ground for leaders. It fit my divine design and I had a desire to be involved somewhere outside of the church. But I was committed to teach a Bible study group. And my season of life dictated that I could not do both. I had to say no although the opportunity fit my design and my desire.
Other things to consider when thinking about season of life are preparation and experience.
My preparation and experience
We can jump into something for which we are not really prepared. We may need training or time to study or some experience at a lower level. But don’t go overboard with this one! There are opportunities for which we never feel qualified although we are.
When I was approached about leading the women’s ministry in my former church, I knew that God had prepared me in many ways. I was one semester short of graduating from DTS with a specialty in women’s ministry. So I had the training that was needed. I also had years of working in the area of women’s ministry, both there and at a couple of other churches. I had held leadership positions in the women’s ministry in every church I had attended. This fit my training and my experience.
Mission is the intersection of divine design, desires, and opportunity. When the three meet, you are on mission.
When Northwest asked me to come, I considered all of these factors. One of the primary reasons that I took the position was because my divine design fit the job description there better than the job description where I was. The women’s ministry is more Bible study driven and part of my job there is to teach. My previous position was more event-driven. As I analyzed the whole thing, this was a better fit for me.
Assignment: Consider the intersection of your divine design, the desires of your heart, and your opportunity. Are you living in that spot now? If not, which is missing? Is it your design? Your desire? Or have you not been given the opportunity that you seek?
So we have discussed defining mission, focusing your influence, and finding your unique God-given mission. We will spend just a few minutes on writing a mission statement.
I guess there are a couple of reasons why we aren’t going to spend a lot of time on this. The first one is because I have never come up with a statement for myself that I like. So I am unsure of how to best help you do it. Second, I am not sure it is necessary. I know my mission without a statement.
But it may help some of you to write it out. I do think that the process is helpful even if you aren’t excited about the result.
IV. Writing a mission statement
So my first point is that it is a process and the process is valuable. I appreciated the process but just don’t like the result. But you don’t have to feel that you are finished. This is something you can take your time to work on. You really need a sense of mission before you attempt this anyway.
I put this next thing on here because I do think it helps.
Short forces you to think through. The one I wrote a year or so ago was too long and involved too much in it.
Another advantage of short is simply being able to remember it, if you care to do so. If you are easily distracted from the mission with other things, you may need to have it memorized so that you can quickly determine whether the opportunity is in line with the mission.
Laurie Beth Jones, author of The Path, believes strongly in a short, written statement. She gives a formula: My mission is to ____, ____, and _____ (fill in with 3 verbs that fit you) _____ (a core value such as serve, justice, mercy, family, creativity, freedom, etc.) to, for, or with ___________ (this is the group or cause that most excites you).
Here are a couple of examples from her book:
1. From an at-home mom: My mission is to create, nurture, and maintain an environment of growth, challenge, and unlimited potential for all those around me.
2. From a labor relations expert: My mission is to uphold, discover, and support trust, honesty, and integrity in all relationships.
3. From a CEO: My mission is to foster innovation, enhance cooperation, and create prosperity for all whom I serve.
Richard Nelson Bolles doesn’t follow a formula but quotes some short statements:
1. My mission is, out of the rich reservoir of love which God seems to have given me, to nurture and show love for others—most particularly to those who are suffering from incurable diseases.
2. My mission is to weep with those who weep, so that in my arms they may feel themselves in the arms of that Eternal Love which sent me and created them.”
3. My mission is to create beautiful gardens, so that in the lilies of the field people may behold the Beauty of God and be reminded of the Beauty of Holiness.”
The third thing that I find helpful is to use scriptures.
Not that you are going to just quote them, but you may pull a word or two from them. Plus, that reminds you that this is a God-given mission. It will be in line with His work in the world. That is what we see in these last couple of statements we read. Some scriptural concepts may be helpful: words like grace, serve, love, sacrifice, teach, reveal, challenge, encourage.
Just as the astronauts and NASA ground support all joined together to accomplish a mission greater than any of them could have done alone, as we each fulfill our individual God-given missions, together we are able to fulfill the great mission that God has called the church to do: glorify God so that we reveal who He is to the world.
Resources on Personal Mission and Related Material
Blackaby, Henry T. and Claude W. King. Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Lifeway, 1990.
Bolles, Richard Nelson. How to Find Your Mission in Life. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2005.
*Brazelton, Katie. Pathway to Purpose for Women: Connecting your to-do list, your passions, and God’s purposes for your life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.
Guinness, Os. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. Nashville, Word Publishing, 1998.
Jones, Laurie Beth. The Path: Creating Your Own Mission Statement for Work and for Life. New York: Hyperion, 1996.
*Miller, Arthur F., Jr. The Power of Uniqueness: How to Become Who You Really Are. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.
Stanley, Andy. Visioneering. Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1999.
Travilla, Carol and Joan C. Webb. The Intentional Woman: A Guide to Experiencing the Power of Your Story. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002.
*These resources have some questions and activities to help you better understand your divine design.