“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18–20 ESV)
Beware of mission rift and mission drift
Many a church has been torn asunder either by fighting about the mission of the church or the slow and gradual loss of vision for Jesus’ mission. One is a rift. One is a drift. A rift is a fight for control. A drift is the loss of any fight or energy at all. Nobody really cares or they pursue something else.
Rifts are terrible firestorms typically resulting in church splits and new churches starting. You can see this in towns where you drive through and you see First Presbyterian Church, Second Presbyterian Church, Third Presbyterian Church. What happened? Group A wanted to do X. Group B thought the church should do Y. Group C thought the church should do more Z. The escalating argument about the mission didn’t energize the church, it fractured it. Rifts are always a danger. I’ve gone through a few fissures myself over the years. We need to be of one mind, grounded in Scripture, that the mission of the church is to make fully devoted followers of Jesus whose lives are all about Him. There are a thousand different ways to get there, but there’s only one mission. Let’s keep it front and center. This is why we are here.
Historically a more real danger is mission drift. Mission drift is when an organization’s vision and purpose slips. What once energized the people moves into the background. They slowly become more and more interested in their personal comfort, or secondary level issues move to the foreground. The church used to be vibrant and they were filling the baptism regularly. But now, nobody fights about the mission because they don’t care enough to fight. But they will fight about less worthy things: the paint color on the wall, preference issues in worship, or any petty thing. The main thing is relegated to the background and a minor thing is pushed up to front and center. This is how churches die and many of them need to. They have forsaken the mission and lost their way. When a church is rifting it indicates drifting. The vision was lost. The culture of the church has moved away from the prime directive.
Here’s another indication; how do we react to change for mission purposes? How open are we if a case can be made that a change would make us more effective at making disciples? The mission mindset is, whatever it takes, it’s not about me, it’s all for him!
Healthy things change! I look at my daughters, especially my oldest (because I can actually talk in sentences to her) and I look at her and she’s growing. She’s going to preschool in the fall. I can’t believe it. Sometimes I say to her “Baby girl, could you please stop growing? I like you just the way you are.” And she says, “No, Daddy. I want to go to Disney and be a ballerina.” Now is that unhealthy? Like what if she said, “Ok Daddy, I’m going to start taking drugs right now so that I never change one bit and don’t grow at all.” No, that’s unhealthy, isn’t it?
When we’re committed to status quo at all costs, that is a sign of a terrible, spiritual disease. When we’re healthy, we want to change and grow. And we love it when it happens.
Let’s avoid mission rift and mission drift.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here