Beware The Shadows

Beware the ShadowsWe 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.




  1. Rob's Dad

    Interesting – so where do you see Legacy as it relates to these two modes?

  2. Janie

    Very powerful. Just had lunch with a dear friend today who made a change in church home recently due to some of those very issues you address here. The ‘survival mode’was something we discussed at length. Amazing how many churches (not just C of C) find themselves struggling with those shadow missions. The question I’ve had for a long time now, is how do you reconcile those in Survival Mode with those who want to take a risk and find that vision God has for us, when it could very well push some out of their comfort zones?

  3. Allan

    I see Legacy as working very, very hard to totally sell out to God’s vision for his people here, but struggling just the same with these shadow missions. We all have a tendency, I think, to go back and forth between survival-oriented and success-oriented thinking, depending on the situation. And that can be disastrous if God’s people, especially in leadership, don’t hold one another accountable.

    I feel like we’re pretty good about that here. We catch each other all the time saying things that may stem more from a wordly view than from God’s view. And we call each other on it.

    Christianity is risky business. It’s costly. To fret about anyone’s “comfort zone,” especially one’s own, is anti-Christian. That’s where we get in trouble. Where in Scripture does God’s Word direct us to be comfortable? Where does it even speak of personal comfort being desireable? In reality, it is Christ who calls his people out of their comfort, out of their security, out of their easy life to something uncomfortable, daring, and hard.

    What is it about us that most of us don’t see it that way? It’s not because we don’t read our Bibles. What is it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For spam filtering purposes, please copy the number 3075 to the field below: