In many conversations I have with pastors, one of the main concerns that frequently comes up is how to lead in an ever-changing context without losing focus of the church’s God-given mission.
Many churches are understanding that major changes need to be made in order to adapt to the new times, but in the process of implementing new strategies, there is always the danger of mission drift. Mission drift, as the term indicates, is basically what happens when the church starts to move away from its calling and purpose.
Symptoms of mission drift
One symptom of mission drift is when a church becomes more about taking than giving.
The essence of the gospel is serving people and not exploiting what they have to offer. In many instances, church systems are designed to draw people into participating in activities that do not produce mature disciples of Christ, but instead, drain time and energy which often results in frustration and tiredness.
The church will always be about people who need salvation through a healthy personal relationship with Christ, not through religious activism.
Another symptom of mission drift in a church happens when it loses its sense of biblical community.
The church is a body of believers who think and act differently but who are brought together in the power of Christ for His glory. Imposing personal opinions and preferences over considering what is important for the whole body is detrimental to the unity of the church.
As Christians, we are called to love one another and present ourselves as humble servants, which is the greatest message to those who are far from Christ.
Mission drift also occurs when a church becomes so inward focused that it totally disconnects from the surrounding missions field.
So many events and programs are geared toward meeting needs of existing members versus reaching the lost.
It was John Stott who said that if every Christian act is not an expression of love to God and to others, then it is a demonstration of emptiness and falseness.
Let us remember that we represent the King of Heaven who emptied Himself and came to serve!
A crucial characteristic of missions drift in churches is when the good news becomes buried under the many challenges and crises we face.
It is so common for congregations to be overburdened with struggles and sins that the power of Christ is no longer evident. The gospel, or good news, is not just something to be talked about, but needs to be lived and demonstrated in the lives of believers.
Challenges are not to be ignored, but there is nothing more appealing to people than the transparency of going through difficulties with the power of overcoming that can only be found in Christ.
There are many other signs of mission drift in our churches.
What are some that come to your mind?
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Joe Souza and originally published by Baptist Churches of New England.