Mission Effectiveness: Good, Better, Best

“Activity does not equal accomplishment.”

Years ago I jotted down this quote as I listened to a John Maxwell talk. It made a lot of sense to me then and it still does today. Being busy doesn’t mean I am being effective.

This is especially true of mission. Mission activity does not equal mission accomplishment.

As I travel around the country, I often meet increasingly weary, frustrated leaders who have poured a lot of energy, leadership capital and money into activities and programs they had hoped would have “missional” results. However, despite all the effort and investment in mission activity these particular leaders are not seeing a correlating mission result. In other words, they are not seeing new people come to faith in Jesus.

These leaders are starting to realize mission activity does not necessarily equal mission accomplishment.

Can you relate?

Perhaps it is time for a more insightful way of evaluating mission effectiveness before we put all that effort into the activity.

See if this helps.

Some years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the late Steve Ogne. Steve had been a well-known church planting trainer and coach. When it comes to evaluating mission effectiveness, he had suggested using a simple spectrum of “good, better, best.”

In other words, when considering “mission” activities, think about the level of mission accomplishment you can realistically expect to see as a result. Since so many pioneers have been experimenting over the last 20 years, we can evaluate with a relatively high level of experiential insight.

Here’s how. In terms of mission accomplishment relative to activity investment:

1) Making a difference in a person’s life is good.

2)  Making a difference and making a friend is better.

3)  Making a difference, making a friend and making a disciple is best.

Good, better, best.

So, concerning the mission of God, it is good to make a difference in someone’s day or life. That matters immensely. However, it is better to not only make a difference for the person but to be in position over time to become friends with the person as well. And, at least in terms of mission effectiveness, it is best to not only make a difference and make a friend but to then be on our way to making a disciple.

Experience (and the Gospels) tells us that the key to mission effectiveness is not activity per se but relationship. Therefore, activities that put our people into position to progress from strangers making a difference to friends making disciples can be our new, clearer goal.

Recently I received a note from a mission leader in another state. They were becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of mission-result they were seeing from a huge food give-away they sponsored as a congregation. Lots of volunteers, lots of money, lots of energy. However, as far as they knew, no one had come to faith in Jesus. Giving away food to the hungry is good, of course.  But they had begun this activity with the hope that they would see many people eventually come to faith in Jesus.

As it turns out, the leader and congregation had made a common mistake… one which we have been slowly coming to understand over the last several years of experimenting. They had underestimated the importance of ongoing relationship in mission effectiveness.

The leader writing me wanted to let me know that as a result of reading my new book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission,” they had gone to the latest food give-away and instead of simply making a difference (good), they sat among the people and began to make a friend (better). As a result, the leader has an ongoing friendship (outside of the food give-away environment) with a family from the community. Now there is a realistic hope that this friendship, in time, will be a context for the Holy Spirit to lead the family to faith and discipleship (best).

What are you and/or your congregation doing that is intended to be “missional?”

Into what categories do your activities fall?

·        Making a difference. (Good)

·        Making a difference and making a friend. (Better)

·        Making a difference, making a friend and making a disciple. (Best)

Once we have a realistic understanding of what our activities can accomplish, then a clearer, more realistic strategy can emerge.  For instance, mission activities that simply “make a difference” can take on a strategically important but more realistic role in a congregation’s overall mission strategy. These kinds of activities are effective at giving our members a way of dipping their toe into the “missional” waters for the first time.  Activities that “make a difference” can be viewed by mission-rookies as relatively low-risk. Such activities give them first-step experiences that help them begin to think and feel differently about the people in the community around them. (Good)

However, where leaders unintentionally help their people get stuck is when these kind of “good” mission activities are the only environments we propose or promote even though they are not necessarily conducive to the next step of making friends. A better idea is to have the next step of the strategy prepared ahead of time so that when people are ready they can move from “the good” of making a difference to “the better” of investing themselves for the sake of making a friend. As leaders, we do not need to think “either/or” – that is, either good or better – rather, we can think sequentially. Good to better to best.

Each step in this progression requires more of a personal investment from our people, but the progression we now propose and promote gives them the actual experience they need to be ready for the higher investment and gives them a more realistic opportunity to see missional fruit as a result of their investment.

Mission effectiveness is all about the depth of relationship we are able to enjoy with people who don’t know Jesus. What will be your strategy to help your people progress from strangers making a difference to friends making disciples?

Many have found my book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission” to be a helpful tool for accomplishing just that.  Shoot me an email or give me a call if you’d like to talk.