Or is that my vision statement? I can never remember.
There are good mission statements out there, or least statements that avoid the trendy jargon that clings to the genre. Ones that, rather than sounding like a committee’s procedural output (ewww), sound like something a real, live human being might say. There’s something inherently deadening in the very idea of The Mission Statement—I apologize if this gives offense, but seriously: if you’ve reached the point where you can no longer recall when you shared the instinctively human aversion to managerial-techno-corporate-advertising speech, ask some friends to tell you, honestly, whether the cubicle around your heart has grown too thick.
Anyway, back to my mission statement. I’ve got one.
At some point it began to seem like a necessary evil (emphasis on necessary) as I tried to make better decisions about where to put my time and energy. I found I needed some kind of rule for which tasks I would commit myself to, and which ones I’d say no to. I don’t remember when I composed it, and I’ve never agreed with myself about the proper phrasing (I am such a bad committee member I don’t even agree with myself; I either do or don’t contain multitudes but can’t get a quorum on that).
Okay, this whole setup has been an exercise in ironic distancing to cover my embarrassment at having a mission statement that guides my theological work.
I teach theology in order to increase the odds on the doctrine of the Trinity doing its proper work in the church; in particular I am a content provider for evangelical trinitarianism.
This has helped me say yes and no to ideas and opportunities, and to focus my efforts. Beyond that, I’ve identified three domains in which I will often have to do a lot of work as a teacher. I call them biblical fluency, spiritual reality, and intellectual scope. These are domains that are necessary supports for my trinitarian project: if I find that I’m teaching on the Trinity but not moving in these domains, something’s gone wrong. My recognition of these domains arose from my commitment to practical trinitarianism: I just learned over the years that there is no way for people to grasp the doctrine of the Trinity if they aren’t doing so in a way that opens up the entire Bible to them; so I recognize that any teaching task that builds up biblical fluency is ultimately going to pay off for trinitarianism. I also learned that there’s a way of teaching on the Trinity that ends up as just a mental workout rather than a means of grace, and I always want to be moving people toward engagement with the living God; I call this spiritual reality. Finally, while I wouldn’t say every important Christian doctrine is necessary mind-expanding in quite this way, the doctrine of the Trinity just requires a grasp of a whole set of big ideas at once, so I’m committed to developing intellectual scope.
The tricky part is that each of these domains is vast, and on any given day I might be required to do some hard work in one of these fields at a considerable distance from my trinitarian goals. Teaching a class on Matthew at a Bible Training School? Biblical fluency. Close involvement in a local church? Spiritual reality. Reading Plato’s Republic with Torrey freshmen, or discussing Pride and Prejudice with juniors? Intellectual scope. Not necessarily a whole lot of Trinity explicit in any of those undertakings! But identifying these domains as fields I need to cultivate constantly helps me stay steadily focused on my primary goal, which is to increase the odds on the doctrine of the Trinity doing its work in the church. Another way of putting that is: there’s nothing wrong with the doctrine of the Trinity, so if it’s not functioning in a community it’s probably because the community needs to develop its biblical fluency, spiritual reality, and intellectual scope.