We spent a lot of time in San Antonio Tuesday talking with Lynn Anderson about the mission of God’s Church. If we understand the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, Scripture shows us clearly that God’s people are to live their lives in such a way as to be lights of truth and salvation to the world. Our unity, our common love, our sacrifice and service should be so obvious to others they can’t help but wonder about the Savior who empowers us to live so differently from the rest of society. That’s God vision. That’s his purpose for his Church.
And that’s our vision as preachers and teachers and shepherds. Living like Jesus. Acting like the Christ. Being transformed more and more into his image. That’s what we proclaim. That’s what we profess.
But if we’re not careful, especially in moments of crisis, we can become driven by other things. Lynn calls those things our “shadow missions.”
When things get tough or shaky or uncertain, when things aren’t happening the way we planned or as quickly as we’d like—in other words, when Satan attacks—we have a human tendency to fall back on our human plans and human needs to meet our human expectations and defeat our human fears.
We often measure success in human terms. And those needs for numbers and applause and buildings and affirmation and contribution cause us to react in one of two ways: we either go into “success mode” or “survival mode.”
Church decisions made and policies produced in success mode are focused on new programs and perceived excitement and manufactured enthusiasm. Generally it’s done for the sake of the buzz it creates and the accompanying noise and bright lights. We become more “like the nations around us.” That’s not the Jesus Way.
Survival mode decisions and actions focus on the numbers; not offending anyone for fear they’ll leave; not upsetting anyone for fear they’ll stop giving money; not challenging anyone to grow for fear we won’t be able to pay the mortgage or the bills. That’s not the Jesus Way.
Lynn calls those our “shadow missions.” These kinds of things are always there, always lurking in the background, always a temptation. And a crisis will often cause these motives and these goals to overtake God’s vision. Our personal mission becomes a higher priority than God’s vision. It’s actually in contradiction with God’s vision.
We all have these shadow missons. We all have needs and wants that don’t necessarily jive with God’s vision. Close inspection reveals that most of our shadow missions are exactly the opposite of what Jesus teaches it means to be like him. Our Savior never knew success or money or buildings or prestige or applause. He didn’t seek it. He didn’t want it. Our challenge is to determine, in everything we do, that God’s vision for his people will never become second to our own missions for ourselves.
Jesus came to earth with absolutely no desire for success and certainly no intention to survive.