Missing God in Missions

by Chris Lautsbaugh on June 11, 2014

Over the last twenty plus years in missions I have learned we go through seasons. We are currently on a furlough, and it is times like these where you can see things in a way which brings greater clarity.

There is something which slowly and subtely was missing from my missions. I was not misusing ministry funds or walking in immorality.

But my focus had drifted.

Not even to bad things.

If our focus is on our product, numbers, programs, or fundraising strategies, we are not practicing missions. Our efforts may be closer to business or entrepreneurial endeavors.

Often when we feel consumed by these things, we remind ourselves that the focus should be the people. We look to serve, to bless, to lift out of poverty or rescue out of injustice.

While these things are good, and in many ways a better focus, this still is not truly missions.

After awhile our mission begins to look like any other humanitarian organization. What is different from us and the Red Cross or the Red CrescentHow is our care of people unique to those in any other NGO or non-profit group? Are we the peace corp with a fish sticker on our bumper?

Are we guilty of missing God in missions?

The Apostle Paul is perhaps the greatest example of a life lived for God and doing it in a sold out manner. He was the greatest missionary in history, having suffered shipwrecks and multiple forms of persecution.

The mission was important for Paul, but it was not the core.
He created great programs and products.
His life influenced the masses, people everywhere were blessed.

But these were not the focus.


Paul’s primary focus was God himself.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”   Phillipians 3:8-9  ESV

This passage was written while in prison! Being in prison, on mission, paled in comparison to knowing Christ!

What makes missions unique from entrepreneurial efforts or humanitarian causes is its focus first and foremost on the Creator. Missions must flow out of this.

Mission can become an idol. In other words, when living on mission replaces God; we have a problem.

I share this from a personal place of being stuck on this concept for months. A sabbatical or furlough is designed for this.

Refreshment, rejuvenation, but most of all Refocus.

Much of this post has been inspired by Skye Jethani’s book, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. This is a fantastic, thought-provoking book I recommend to all.

I’ve blogged extensively on this in the last weeks and months. It is the place where God has me and is not letting me “move on.”

I wanted to share it with our Life Overseas community.

It is so easy to get busy.  Without even realizing it, we find ourselves in a place of missing God in missions.

This challenge / encouragement does not come from a place of constant success.

Instead, I ask you to consider this from a fellow sojourner. From one who sees even more my need to keep my walk with God first and foremost in my missions endeavors.

Does this resonate? Do you disagree?
Other than an “official” furlough or sabbatical, how do you build in check ups to see how things are going?

Photo by By Nicola Perantoni

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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.
  • Wow – thank you soooo much for this. This is exactly where I am right now…and what the Lord is speaking to me. Where is our focus? Our mission, our call, our function is very important – but if these do not flow from a thriving relationship with our Creator, they will disintegrate into rote form. Great, great post. I am sharing this on my FB page. Rosilind from Missional Call (www.missionalcall.com)

    • Thanks so much. I think we will continual need to ask these questions of ourselves. There is no arriving in this, only continued trusting and journeying

  • Colleen Connell Mitchell

    Oh, Chris. Thanks. I have been in constant battle of discontentment..the old “not enoughs” getting to me. It has drawn my focus onto growing, doing more, being more in the way of programs, fundraising, etc. It has drawn my eyes to what others are doing and made me feel less than. And then Pentecost came along, and I stood before God and pleaded He pour out the Spirit afresh on me. And He asked me if He did, would I promise in return to stop wasting it? Ouch. So here I am, trying to pull myself out of the rut and stop wasting the gifts of the Spirit God is pouring out on me, not to DO more, but draw me deeper into Him. I think I will need to be reading that book. Your wisdom always focuses me and I am grateful you are part of this community.

  • James Orred

    Chris, you nailed it again, as is your custom!

  • Richelle Wright

    I agree. This totally resonates.

    One way I try and prevent this is making myself accountable to at least a couple of people – at least one person who sees me in person; the others can be via email or skype or… – who will regularly, persistently, ask me hard questions. Making sure I’m in God’s Word, a lot – and not just good books – is something else I’ve also found important, although very, very hard. When I’m in His Word, it keeps my focus on Him. When I start reading too much of the other good stuff, I can get lost in that, spend less time with God… and things just spiral from there.

  • Dalaina May

    Love this! My team in Asia is working on a vision that includes weekly and monthly prayer and fasting days for this very purpose. It’s so easy to get caught up in the practicals of day to day living that we forget the God who is the purpose. We begin walking in our own power and resources and that is the beginning of defeat and burnout.

  • Chris, that was a great insight: “Mission can become an idol. In other words, when living on mission replaces God; we have a problem.”

  • Pingback: Missing God in Missions: Great read, click on the title to view full article | use with Grace()

  • Jeff Eklund

    Thanks for this, Chris. I left missions 2 years ago, and I was searching for the language you just articulated! As I go back in, this is something that is pressed on my heart. My focus on God, relationship, fellowship etc.. with the Father needs to be #1. Mission/Business objective took place of that. Now, getting back into missions in the future (most likely), I’m trying to see how my focus can be on the Lord, while all of the excellence in the other areas I must focus on to be effective (mission, logistics, relationships, service) will flow from that relationship, not alongside it or in front of it.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to share this blog with some friends!

    Jeff Eklund

    P.S. — CSBS TJ says hi

    • Share away Jeff. Great to hear from you and hope to see you someday soon.

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  • Tammy Ogden

    I do agree. Its hard though because you can be focus on things that you believe are essential to finish the job and in the middle of it all loss your joy. That’s when I think we have lost our focus. Just random thoughts.

  • Tim

    Focus on God will lead to us speaking about God. It did for Paul. Hence, what keeps our mission from looking like just another NGO, we have a gospel to share and a God to speak of. We are ambassadors with a message. God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ. This is the message He has left for us to share with the world.

  • Lourens Laureti


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