Avoiding Mission Drift

by Chris Lautsbaugh on October 29, 2014

We’ve seen Christian organizations publicly wrestle with change in recent times.

InterVarsity is facing this pressure to allow non-Christians to be a part of their leadership. This is resulting in them being banned from certain campuses. Will they change some of their core values?

World Vision battled with adopting new policies, leading to a back and forth battle as to whether this caused them to drift. Unfortunately this happened in full view of millions.

Even pawn shops have drifted. They were founded by the Fransicians as an alternative to loan sharks, designed to help the poor. Over time, pawn shop owners lost their identity and drifted from their purpose.

Could this ever happen to our charities?

Tale of two organizations:

Two organizations were founded by Presbyterian ministers to help sponsor children in need. One drifted.

Child Fund, formerly Christian Children’s Fund has nothing to do with Christianity anymore, while Compassion International has remained mission true.

Both Harvard and Yale started as Christian educational institutions set on developing Christian formation. Neither are today.

Mission drift is inevitable if you do nothing to prevent it.

We must take steps to actively prevent it. It is the natural course for organizations without focused and deliberate steps to stop it

Peter Greer is the president of HOPE International, a global faith-based microfinance organization based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He recently spoke at the Catalyst Conference I attended.

He has written a fantastic book, Missions Drift, which I highly recommend. All of the above examples are detailed this book.

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Missions True Organizations

“In its simplest form, Missions True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable (unchanging): their values and their purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.”

This does not mean Missions True organizations do not change, adapt, or strive for excellence. Jesus’ ministry looked different for different folks.

Young life started with barbershop quartets as an evangelism strategy. These would not be nearly as efffective today, so they adapted while maintaining their mission.

5 Things Missions True Organizations Do:
1. Recognize Christ is the difference.
2. Affirm that faith sustains them.
3. Understand that functional atheism is the path of least resistance. (becoming Christian in name only)
4. Be willing to make hard decisions to prevent drift.
5. Differentiates means from mission – changes to reinforce core identity, not drift from it.

The book details countless examples of this and how organizations can give themselves check-ups.

Greer lists 7 Steps to prevent drift (these are all entire chapters in the book.) I’ve detailed these to a greater extend on my website, NoSuperHeroes. Click here to read, 7 Steps for Preventing Missions Drift.

The book is a very encouraging read to those of us in faith-based missions and development. He shares an incredible quote from Matthew Paris, a confirmed atheist, who wrote the following in the British Times.

Now as a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGO’s, government projects, and international aid efforts. The alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.”

Staying Mission True in our lives will bear fruit!

The concept of drift is not isolated in our teams. It happens organizationally, but also on a personal level. Countless marriages start out well and then drift, finding themselves in a entirely different place. Our personal walk with God and mission is not exempt either.

If you believe you are immune then you are the most vulnerable.

Let’s not be naive and bury our heads in the sand. Ask the hard questions.

In what areas of life and organizations are we at risk for drift? Where has it already occurred?

For more on this interesting topic, please visit missiondriftbook.com. Remember to stop by NoSuperHeroes for further discussion from Peter’s book on the topic of Missions Drift.

photo credit: Bev Goodwin via photopin cc

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About Chris Lautsbaugh

In missions for 20+ years currently in South Africa as a teacher and leadership coach. He serves side by side with wife, Lindsey, and two boys, Garett and Thabo. Blogs at NoSuperHeroes.com on grace, leadership, and missions. Wrote Death of the Modern SuperHero:How Grace Breaks our Rules.

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