Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve Jones here… I rarely walk past a Salvation Army Christmas kettle without dropping something in… Why? Because I believe in their mission and I’m convinced they still believe in it too. Their belief has turned into action for over a century (Salvation Army founded July 2, 1865).
That’s actually quite a rare thing nowadays. Most organizations forget over time why they initially came into existence. Call it amnesia; call it pragmatism; call it stupidity… Mission drift is commonplace everywhere.
Pastor John Ortberg refers to this as following our “shadow-mission”. We all have a propensity to follow a shadow-mission. We might say our mission in life is to know Christ and make Him known to others, but, if we really, honestly look at the fruit from our life — and Jesus did say we would know them by their fruit — would our fruit (behaviour, values, attitudes, beliefs) really represent His Mission to “make disciples of all nations”, or would it represent our own personal shadow-mission?
Many Canadian Christians’ shadow-mission is to experience a pleasurable life and ensure their family is comfortable. Is that Biblical?
The interesting thing about shadow-missions is that they are often closely associated with our real mission. My shadow-mission is often only ten degrees off my real mission in life. For example, you’re a gifted preacher or teacher, and you feel fulfilled when others gain knowledge, inspiration and wisdom from your teaching. But if your mission moves just ten degrees... now your mission for teaching has become an opportunity to expose your tremendous wealth of knowledge. Pride has set upon you and your shadow-mission has subtly taken over. What is your shadow-mission?
The interesting thing about shadow-missions is that churches can also have them…
“Choosing the easiest path since 1968.”
Regions can have shadow-missions…
“Avoiding conflict since 1985.”
Denominations can have shadow-missions…
“The Fellowship; celebrating mediocrity since 1953.”
Our churches can fall prey to an assortment of shadow-missions:
Our shadow-mission can, over time, subtly lead us away from our primary mission, doing it so subtly we’re not even aware of it. The Bible says in Revelation 3:1b-2 (NIV) “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.”
How does this reality affect the church of Jesus Christ and accomplish the mission?
In the late 1800s in Britain, a group of Quakers who owned banks joined together to “maintain their purpose of serving God by supporting business that provided useful products and paid just wages.” Today the only vestige of its Quaker roots remains in the name of its morning management meeting which is still called “prayers”. The bank is Barclay’s of London. It followed its shadow-mission.
Another organization, started in 1863 in Switzerland, was founded by a “fervent evangelical and high-minded Calvinist”. One founder said his idea of the organization was a direct inspiration from God. Another founder said he had been guided by the example of the Good Samaritan to assist the war-wounded. Today, the Red Cross has 97 million volunteers and a revenue of 3.6 billion dollars (2010) per year, with its CEO earning $652,000 last year. Yet the organization has little overt Christian witness. It followed its shadow-mission.
Another familiar organization’s original mission was to be “a social organization of those in whom the love of Christ has produced a love of men: who shall meet the young stranger as he enters the city and take him by the hand.” At one time this Christian organization could boast that one in every six college students in the US attended one of its Bible studies. This organization sent student missionaries around the world and invented two Olympic sports: basketball and volleyball. But, few people would consider the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) an organization with an authentic Christian mission. It followed its shadow-mission somewhere along the way and rebranded itself as the “Y”.
However, another organization founded in the late 1800s in Britain stated its mission to be: “to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name.” Today the Salvation Army is the largest charitable organization in the world, and still continues to adhere to the founder’s mission. Its Gospel penetration and mission effectiveness continues because it was careful not to be tempted by its shadow-mission. Ninety percent of every dollar donated to the Salvation Army goes to support their ministries.
Let me encourage you to not pass a Salvation Army Christmas kettle this month without dropping some change in it. That’s right — every time you hear the bell of a Salvationist is a “Pavlovian” moment to reach for your purse, wallet, or pocket full of change.
Consider it a moment to help others as well as celebrate a Christian organization that has remained relentlessly on-mission for 151 years. Amazing!
Have a blessed week,