Willimon on Mission vs. Maintenance

This was posted on William Willimon's blog some time back. It came to mind today.


1. In measuring the effectiveness, the maintenance congregation
asks, “How many pastoral visits are being made? The mission
congregation asks, “How many disciples are being made?”

2. When contemplating some form of change, the maintenance
congregation says, “If this proves upsetting to any of our members, we
won’t do it.” The mission congregation says, “If this will help us
reach someone on the outside, we will take the risk and do it.”

3. When thinking about change, the majority of members in a
maintenance congregation ask, “How will this affect me?” The majority
of members in the mission congregation ask, “Will this increase our
ability to reach those outside?”

4. When thinking of its vision for ministry, the maintenance
congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our past.” The mission
congregation says, “We have to be faithful to our future.”

5. The pastor in the maintenance congregation says to the newcomer,
“I’d like to introduce you to some of our members.” In the mission
congregation the members say, “We’d like to introduce you to our

6. When confronted with a legitimate pastoral concern, the pastor in
the maintenance congregation asks, “How can I meet this need?” The
pastor in the mission congregation asks, “How can this need be met?”

7. The maintenance congregation seeks to avoid conflict at any cost
(but rarely succeeds). The mission congregation understands that
conflict is the price of progress, and is willing to pay the price. It
understands that it cannot take everyone with it. This causes some
grief, but it does not keep it from doing what needs to be done.

8. The leadership style in the maintenance congregation is primarily
managerial, where leaders try to keep everything in order and running
smoothly. The leadership style in a mission congregation is primarily
transformational, casting a vision of what can be, and marching off the
map in order to bring the vision into reality.

9. The maintenance congregation is concerned with their
congregation, its organizations and structure, its constitutions and
committees. The mission congregation is concerned with the culture,
with understanding how secular people think and what makes them tick.
It tries to determine their needs and their points of accessibility to
the Gospel.

10. When thinking about growth, the maintenance congregations asks,
“How many Lutherans live within a twenty-minute drive of this church?”
The mission congregation asks, “How many unchurched people live within
a twenty-minute drive of this church?”

11. The maintenance congregation looks at the community and asks,
“How can we get these people to support our congregation?” The mission
congregation asks, “How can the Church support these people?”

12. The maintenance congregation thinks about how to save their
congregation. The mission congregation thinks about how to reach the

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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Share Your Thoughts

4 thoughts on “Willimon on Mission vs. Maintenance

  1. Robin, the part I would emphasize is the part about the role of the transformed church in the process of evangelism. I do believe that the church should strive to be excellent, but the excellence could be broken into a few different dimensions…the most important would be in the area of full submission of the body to the reign of God.
    It’s also fair to say that the maintenance church “takes it on the chin.” That’s Willimon…he loves to plant one on the chin of the establisment as a part of his love/challenge relationship with it.
    Hope to see you again soon.

  2. After listening to last Sunday’s North County sermon, I see a close tie between this post & your “Evangelism” post from earlier this week. Let’s say you’re right: the key to getting people in the door is the basic message of John 1: “We have found the Messiah. Come & see.” If so, then there has to be something truly amazing happening inside those doors to turn our secular friends into modern-day Peters & Nathanaels. When Andrew & Philip extended their invitations, they did so with the certainty that Jesus would prove Himself to be the “real deal” to those invited. Today, if people accept the invitation to come & see, then they will only actually find the Messiah if He is living in us.
    So, in this situation, evangelism becomes more than just community outreach to bring the world to Christ. An important part of “evangelism” is the internal shaping of the local church so that each member is visibly, obviously living & breathing Jesus. To use a bad analogy, the bride of Christ needs to be attractive for all the wedding guests to behold. Else, they are all going to head home & never come back because they weren’t moved by what they saw & didn’t actually discover what they came to find.
    In summary: Given the framework you’ve proposed for effective evangelism, you could really title this Willimon post, “Evangelism, Part 2.” Maybe so-called “maintenance congregations” take it a bit too much on the chin here, but that’s a personal aside.
    Sorry so long. Good to meet you a few weeks ago. Will try to make it back up to North County to hear another sermon soon.