Your Organization’s Mission is Question Zero

Remember the last time you sat down to do a jigsaw puzzle? The work proceeds in two basic steps. First, you put the edges together. Finding all of the little pieces with straight edges is the easiest way to begin. As you piece together the top and bottom and sides, the puzzle is framed up within a relatively short period of time.

The second part of the process is now ready to begin, because you have defined the basic shape and outline of the puzzle. Before building the frame, it would have been exceedingly difficult to put many of the middle pieces together. But now, all of those elusive jigsaw shapes and unclear image fragments have perspective and boundaries.

Even though the frame makes the puzzle-building project easier, more work remains. You pick up awkward shape after awkward shape, twisting and turning them and turning again, until you get just the right fit and-snap-the image develops, one piece at a time. After a long journey that may take days or even months, the final image emerges.

Articulating your church’s vision is like working on a jigsaw puzzle.

Auxano co-founder Will Mancini developed the Vision Frame concept to show you how to articulate your vision the same way you would build a puzzle: in two basic steps.

Here is the first of four parts introducing the Vision Frame, guiding you to first think about the four outer edges – the components of your church’s identity that frame everything else you do. These edges anchor the second part of the process (a future SUMS Remix), which involves the direction of living and articulating the dynamic vision of your Church Unique through the daily work of turning and twisting the pieces of the organization. The edges of the frame are definitive, but the middle of the puzzle is dynamic. The fixed nature of step one, building the frame, anchors the fluid nature of step two, where your vision picture slowly develops into the better intermediate future God has entrusted to you. 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches by Peter Greer and Chris Horst

Without careful attention, faith-based organizations drift from their founding mission. It’s that simple. It will happen. 

Why do so many organizations wander from their mission, while others remain Mission True? Can drift be prevented? In Mission Drift, HOPE International executives Peter Greer and Chris Horst show how to determine whether your organization is in danger of drift, and they share the results of their research into Mission True and Mission Untrue organizations.

Even if your organization is on course, it’s wise to look for ways to inoculate yourself against drift. You’ll discover what you can do to prevent drift or get back on track and how to protect what matters most.


The first side to Auxano’s Vision Frame is the missional mandate, defined as a clear and concise statement that defines what the church is ultimately supposed to be doing. The Mission answers “question zero” – the question before all other questions. Why do we exist? What is our raison d’etre? The Mission is your church’s compass and guiding North Star. As such, it provides direction and points everyone in that direction. The mission is like the heartbeat of the organization. It should touch members on an emotional level and act like a cohesive force and binding agent. 

Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission. Slowly, silently, and with little fanfare, organizations routinely drift from their original purpose, and most will never return to their original intent.

In its simplest form, true organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.

That doesn’t mean Mission True organizations don’t change. And it doesn’t mean they aren’t striving for excellence. In fact, they understand their core identity will demand they change. And their understanding of Scripture will demand they strive for the very highest levels of excellence. But growth and professionalism are subordinate values. To remain Mission True is to adapt and grow, so long as that adaptation and growth does not alter the core identity.

Mission True organizations decide that their identity matters and then become fanatically focused on remaining faithful to this core.

The pressures of Mission Drift are guaranteed. It is the default, the auto-fill. It will happen unless we are focused and actively preventing it.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the very thing our world so desperately needs. And the infusion of the Gospel in our organization is what we most need to protect.

Peter Greer and Chris Horst, Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches


Mission Defined

The mission is the guiding compass of the church. The mission answers the question, “What are we ultimately supposed to be doing?” It makes the overall direction of the church unquestionable and points everyone in that direction. The mission is also like a golden thread that weaves through every activity of the church. Therefore, it brings greater meaning to the most menial functions of ministry.         

Mission Icon as a Compass

The average guy, Joe, will encounter the mission first by hearing it everywhere by many different people. So we say that mission is “what Joe hears” at the church.

Mission Reminders

  • Aim for clear, concise, compelling, catalytic and contextual
  • Remind people that the church exists for those outside of it
  • Reflect your Kingdom Concept
  • Don’t think “billboard marketing” but “military mission” – it’s internal, not external language
  • Promote “be the church” not “go to church”
  • Create the big world of ministry with the best, few words (words create worlds)

Gather the team and ask this question: How does our current mission measure up to the bullets above? What is missing from our mission?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 115-1, released March 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<




Leaders Execute the Vision

Does your lack of organizational focus keep everyone too busy – especially you?

 Do you feel like most days you are running on a ministry treadmill? You know the feeling – it’s when the busyness of ministry creates a progressively irreversible hurriedness in your life as a leader. The sheer immediacy of each next event or ministry demand prevents you from taking the time to look to the future horizon – and sometimes even today’s calendar – until it crashes in on you.

All too often, today’s demands can choke out the needed dialogue for tomorrow. When this occurs, your multiplied activity accomplishes little of value and prevents you from ministry with a clear sense of what God has called you to do.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Escape Velocity by Geoffrey A. More

In Escape Velocity, Geoffrey A. Moore, author of the marketing masterwork Crossing the Chasm, teaches twenty-first century enterprises how to overcome the pull of the past and reorient their organizations to meet a new era of competition. The world’s leading high-tech business strategist, Moore connects the dots between bold strategies and effective execution, with an action plan that elucidates the link between senior executives and every other branch of a company.

For anyone aiming for the pinnacle of success, Escape Velocity is an irreplaceable roadmap to the top.


While forecasting the future should be seen as a necessary action for ministry today, Auxano Founder and Team Leader Will Mancini believes that for every leader who surfs the waves of cultural change there are a hundred who are stuck in a whirlpool vortex – and they feel they can’t keep their heads above the waters.

The world outside us is not stuck. It is changing rapidly even as we find ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into the comfort of yesterday.

It’s time to go back to the drawing board for vision, strategy, and execution.

The larger and more successful the enterprise, the greater the inertial mass, the harder it is to alter course and speed.

What if there is some hidden force that is working against your best efforts? What if this force is operating inside your own company, with the full support of your executive team, your board, and indeed yourself? What if this force is able to mysteriously redirect resource allocation so that it never quite gets deployed against new agendas? That force is the pull of the past.

To move beyond the pull of the past, you must organize and shape your approach to the planning effort of next year with three goals foremost:

Articulate a compelling vision of the future that others will want to support.

Set a strategy consistent with your vision.

Resource your execution so that it can accomplish your highest aspirations.

To free your organization’s future from the pull of the past, to escape the gravitational field of your prior year’s operating plan, you need to apply a force that is greater than the inertial momentum of current operations.

Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to continue in the direction in which it is currently moving. The same goes for resource allocation.

When organizations begin their strategic planning effort by circulating last year’s operating plan, they reinforce the inertial properties of the resources as currently allocated. This is not a good outcome, but to be frank, there is no help for it.

What you can do, however, is get yourself and your colleagues out in front of it. Execution is acting and reacting in real time to an ever-changing set of circumstances, all the while maintaining your strategic intent. Execution power, by contrast, is created in advance of the real-time moment of truth and focuses on getting the right resources in the right position for maximum impact and efficiency.

Geoffrey A. Moore, Escape Velocity


It’s time to develop a visionary state of mind by practicing two essentials. First, you need to grasp that clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything. Too many times, church leaders are making decisions and having conversations without the vantage point of clarity first. Is there anything greater that we should be working on? Why would we put our foot on the gas petal before the fog lifts? All activity is not progress. In churches today, it’s all too easy to be busy without intention or direction.

Second, we need to state our vision framework before we frame our vision statement. Leaders must work from a common template to understand and communicate vision, or everyone will stay confused. The story and vision of the church won’t work its way into staff meetings, volunteer training, membership moments, casual conversations or our prayer lives.

Introducing the Vision Frame

No leader should lead, no team should meet, and no initiative should start without understanding the Vision Frame. In short, the Vision Frame reminds us that there are five irreducible questions of clarity. Your church’s vision isn’t totally clear until your leadership team can answer all five questions in a concise and compelling way:

  • MISSION as Missional Mandate: What are we doing?
    The missional mandate is a clear and concise statement describing what your church is ultimately supposed to be doing.
  • VALUES as Missional Motives: Why are we doing it?
    Missional motives are shared convictions that guide the actions and reveal the strengths of your church.
  • STRATEGY as Missional Map: How are we doing it?
    The missional map is the process or picture that demonstrates how your church will accomplish its mandate on the broadest level.
  • MEASURES as Missional Life Marks: When are we successful?
    Missional life marks are a set of attributes in an individual’s life that define or reflect the accomplishment of the church’s missional mandate.
  • VISIONPROPER as Missional Mountaintop + Milestones: Where is God taking us?
    Vision Proper is the living language that anticipates and illustrates God’s better intermediate future.

When you commit to clarity, great things happen. You empower a movement of people to tell the story of what God is doing in and through your church. You can seamlessly share the what, the why, and the how.

Don’t let all the different vision terms and concepts excuse you from being an everyday visionary. It’s time to stop stabbing at the future with a few short phrases. You can guide your church with stunning clarity. Remember Jesus. He walked on Earth with total clarity about His identity, His mission and His destiny. Shouldn’t His body today do the same?

Download a Vision Frame Overview and work through it with your lead team.

Start a conversation with an Auxano Navigator today to learn more about how the Vision Frame can help you execute your vision.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 64-2, released April 2017.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.