Essential Characteristics of Effective Replanters: Missional Focus, Part 1

By Keelan Cook

“Pastor, if you want your church to be healthy again, your church needs a fresh vision.”

You’ve heard those words. I’ve said those words. For the most part, they’re true.

But let’s get one thing out in the open: your church’s vision is a shot in the dark if you don’t understand the pillars on which it rests.

Why do we do what we do?

That is a helpful question for any church, but it’s a crucial question for replanters beginning a replant process. Having a missional focus is an essential characteristic of effective replanters. Replanters with a missional focus make it a priority to equip and mobilize the congregation to live their life on mission in their community and beyond for the sake of Christ and His gospel.

Replanting requires a church to come back to its core purpose — and that requires a healthy missional focus. This missional focus does not come out of thin air, and a great deal of replanting work is leading a congregation back toward a healthy missional focus.

Sure, good vision is creative and usually the result of a decent dose of inspiration. And any church’s vision should be Spirit-directed and covered in prayer. It should be the overflow of a Spirit-filled congregation. However, hunches and good feelings are not the meat of vision, and direction from the Spirit is never untethered from the truths of Scripture or the realities around us.

A church’s mission focus (or vision) is found at the intersection of three basic aspects of the church:

  • the biblical mission
  • the context of the community around it
  • the unique composition of the congregation itself

If you have ever heard someone say that every church should have a unique vision, this is why. Two of those three pillars (context and composition) are different for every, single church. That said, one of them (the biblical mission) is the exact same for every church. Understanding this distinction is imperative for crafting a healthy vision for planting or pastoring.

Vision is what happens when an unchanging mission meets a unique congregation in an ever-changing context.

The biblical mission

A lot of confusion surrounds the terms ‘mission’ and ‘vision.’ This is due, in part, to churches borrowing language and terminology from the business world in order to explain their strategy. Mission and vision can be amorphous terms that often are used interchangeably in business writing, and multiple definitions exist for each. When talking about a business, this is fine, but it is not so fine with the church.

Simply put, your mission and vision are not the same. Mission is prior to vision. These are not interchangeable ideas. In fact, your church does not have a unique mission. Unlike a business, your church has a God-given mission that is the exact same as every other local church that has ever existed.

The mission of the church is a biblical given. Its objective and parameters are set within the pages of Scripture. Your task as a church is not to reinvent your mission, it is to move in obedience to the directives handed to you by Christ for His glory and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Anything less, and your church is not “being creative,” it is off-mission.

When establishing a church’s vision, a replanter’s central question is whether the vision addresses the one, biblical mission of the church. Replanter, you cannot properly set your vision for planting or pastoring a congregation until you truly understand the mission.

Click here to read Part 2 of this post.,

Published November 1, 2019

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Keelan Cook

Keelan Cook is the Senior Church Consultant for the Union Baptist Association in Houston, Texas. His primary areas of ministry focus include urban missiology, church planting, church revitalization, and unreached people groups.