Burn your corporate mission statements

Michael Kellahan

I'm getting tired of the language of business choking important thinking about church and mission. Don't get me wrong - insights from business have their place. You'd be a fool not to learn something from the world's wisdom on strategic planning, change management, market analysis or project management.

But that beige boardroom language cannot make the heart sing. Yet how many hours are devoted to crafting a corporate styled mission statement? I've yet to see one I'd want to put music to. How can people of the word be content with words that are so bland?

I had poetry beaten into me at a country boarding school and mostly resented it. But there are some lines that won't leave me, like these from Henry Lawson:

Ah mammon slaves your knees shall knock,
your hearts in terror beat,
when God demands a reason for the sorrow of the street

Thirty something years on and I can't preach on rich and poor, or walk past the homeless without those words ringing in my head. Lawson takes his cue from Matthew 6 of course, but he delivers it with such power. You read Lawson and you hear Jesus speaking to our generation in ways that make you squirm. Not a neutered weasel word in sight here.

Our best lyricist know this. Who hasn't been moved by 'My chains fell off, my heart was free' or 'love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul my life my all'?

Words like that express the truth we take our stand on. They speak powerfully of the convictions we hold. They thrust people out into the mission field with hearts on fire.

So burn your corporate mission statements. Sack the strategy committee. Appoint a parish poet. Pull together the lyricists who weep for the lost.

And, to steal a line from the poet Taylor Mali:

'Say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it'





Feature photo: Davide Rusconi