Being new to the role of a lead pastor, I have been seeking a lot of advice, reading lots of books, and soliciting a lot of advice.

But recently, I’ve arrived at a fairly simple conclusion about it all. I need to remember the one thing. Do you know the one thing?

Here’s the clip from the movie, “City Slickers” (fair warning, there is one expletive word):

The one thing for me as I read the Bible is Jesus’ obsession of doing the work of the one who sent him – Jesus is always about that one thing. It’s more important to him than healing people, keeping Sabbath, staying away from sinful people…it’s the one thing. As a new pastor, there are lots of ways I can spend my time – but how do I spend time in a way that advances the mission, that increases the work of the Sender? Do we as a church do the work of helping you gain a sense of sent-ness? For reassuring you in that sense of mission.

And so here’s the progression that I see:

  • There is a calling or a healing that awakens a person to the power of Christ – the themes are health, healing, wholeness, new awareness, new sense of purpose, wonder, destiny, and discovery
  • Then there is a longer season of discipleship, which involves teaching,equipping, wilderness, disorientation, attempts, failure, sweat, doubt, as well as growth in the new way of life, accepting self and others, and the desire to see the kingdom come in new ways. That is the beauty of the paradox of this stage – it’s good, but it doesn’t come as easily as being called or healed.
  • Then comes a commissioning – where discipleship becomes more focused and particular. This is where identity and mission come together to affirm a particular callings and gifting of a person or couple. This is where the person needs to take a step beyond the place of disciple formation, and the church needs to empower and release them to exercise that calling.
  • Rinse, lather, repeat – ultimately, discipleship doesn’t really end. And hitting your stride in your calling should bring about others to come into a sense of their own calling or brought to a place of healing, which means that we get to walk alongside someone in the first step all over again.

But each step is oriented around the one thing, the prime directive of mission. When in doubt about a particular controversial issue – always take the angle of mission. How can the mission proceed from this place, person, or situation? Your ethnicity, your political preferences, socioeconomic class, location, favorite football team, gender, height, weight, blood type, whatever…all of it can be employed to the glory of God. Always put the mission first, before church, before quiet time, before your own preferences and even your theology, put mission first.

I’m not an environmentalist, but if someone who cares about environment is in my midst, then I’m happy to celebrate Earth Day. I will break from my routine to give room to someone else’s concern in order to acknowledge that God created the earth and called it good.

I am not a vegetarian, but I will concern myself with the ethics of mass producing cattle in a fast food society in order that God might be glorified above my taste for steak.

I am not Black, but I will concern myself with the issues of race in America and the case of Trayvon Martin, if that will help me be a better brother in Christ Jesus to walk alongside and create unity where there is none.

The one thing is mission – in our lives individually and in our church corporately, this is the prime directive. We may not be able to articulate yet how that takes shape, but that is it and I dare not lose sight of it.