Imagine: You are part of an organization or business who mission is to sell their product or take their service to their community, country, region, and world. Yet very few of the members or employees of this organization are actively serving or selling. Some money and perhaps a staff position are given toward furthering the mission. However, the vast majority of the budget goes to maintaining the institutional structure and providing staff to maintain it. The central feature of this organization or business is its weekly gatherings primarily attended by staff or regular supporters. The aim of these meetings is to, at best, excite the staff or supporters to continue maintaining the institution and recruiting any who might happen in to join up. At worst, these meetings desperately try to entertain the staff or supporters to keep them from leaving and prevent the budget from dwindling any further.
Education in this imaginary enterprise amounts to attempting to teach the groups’ mission handbook (their Bible) even though few of their employees or members are, or have in active memory, been involved in that mission. Other courses in a variety of self-improvement techniques or problem-solving are offered as well for those who sense the obvious disconnect in studying the mission handbook without any involvement in the mission.
As the absurdity of this situation dawns, first, on non-participants, and then belatedly on participants in this enterprise, panic sets in. The “end” for this way of doing things is thinkable, is in sight (as it were). There are three basic responses.
First, no efforts or expense is spared in attempting to “re-engineer” the existing structure to do better and more efficiently what they have always done.
Second, extraordinary efforts are made a valiant minority to reshape the current structure to better reflect and actively engage its mission.
Third, some believe the only adequate (possible?) response is to imagine and rebuild from ground up new and fresh ways of being and doing the mission that align the newly-imagined structure with it mission’s dynamic.
In my judgment, the first response is untenable and suicidal. The return on the effort and expense expended in the second, is too small to justify itself. The third response is the only option that holds out whatever hope there may be for us in the situation. This third response is the missional one.