It has happened in numerous conversations.
There has been the lament of decisions made, and the ripples that flow from those decisions moving outward growing ever larger and larger.
Could it be that in some places in our Army world that we are experiencing a floundering of our mission? How can we recognize this mission drift in our ministries and in the larger army?
Perhaps the first question we should ask ourselves is this: What is our mission as an Army? Have we strayed from that mission? And if the answer is ‘yes’, then perhaps we have indeed become castaways on mission drift.
I read a fascinating article recently from The Gospel Coalition by Matt Smethurst, he was interviewing authors Peter Greer and Christ Horst who wrote the book Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities and Churches. In this interview, Smethurst asked Greer and Horst “Why is “mission drift” such a problem for well-intentioned Christian ministries and charitable trusts?”
Their answer really hit home with perhaps some of the issues our Army faces currently. Here is what Greer and Horst had to say:
Through our research we confirmed that mission drift is a pressing challenge for every faith-based organization. The zeal and beliefs of the founders are insufficient safeguards. There is no immunity, no matter how concrete your mission statement is. Or how passionate your leaders are. Or how much you believe it could never happen to you.
Relatively minor decisions, when compounded by time, lead organizations to an entirely different purpose and identity.
Did you catch that?
Mission Drift is a challenge for EVERY faith-based organization…and I believe we are facing this imminent threat every day within our Army. We are not immune. We are not above this danger. As a matter of fact, I believe that the chief danger in our Salvation Army today is mission drift within social programs, recreational programs and all other would be programs that are become increasingly devoid of any spiritual emphasis or initiative. We have become professional outsourcers and imagined “the lost” would come banging down our doors on Sunday…yet they aren’t and our corps are dying…and we are riding wave after wave of mission drift.
When asked about money, Greer and Horst had this to say:
Q: How does money tend to factor into the mission drift equation?
“Through hundreds of hours of interviews with Christian leaders of organizations of all varieties, donor influence was identified time and again as a leading cause of drift. With almost any donation there are “strings attached.” In some instances donors—often corporate donors or government funders—will place prohibitions about how overtly Christian an organization’s work can be. Historically this restriction was perhaps most evidenced in Andrew Carnegie’s university funding, which disallowed “sectarian institutions” from receiving funding. Many colleges—including Brown and Dartmouth—cut ties with their founding Christian denominations to be eligible to receive Carnegie’s millions.”
Has money played a part of our possible mission drift in the Salvation Army?
I would say if it hasn’t, then the temptation has surely been there…and some may even rationalize “well, we will figure out a ‘work-around’ for our mission to continue as we accept these monies…” and yet the funds come and the implementation of missional, intentional Christ-centered programming gets tossed or put on the back-burner because regulations and guidelines must be followed. Is this danger truly happening to our Army? Is it subtle and sometimes unnoticeable? All it takes are small, seemingly innocuous decision to take place in order for the drift to start. Could it be happening in your corps? Your Division? Your Territory?
I certainly do not want to paint a doom and gloom, “let’s second guess every decision being made” – type of conversation. But I am pondering whether we have already begun to drift away from our primary purpose for being an Army? Later on in the interview, Greer and Horst said this, and I believe this describes my fear of mission drift in our army:
We chose the word drift intentionally. It has the image of slowly, silently, and with little fanfare carrying you away to a new destination. It’s not dramatic, and yet anyone who’s spent time on a boat of any size knows it happens.
It’s clichéd, but the moments of greatest temptation occur when you least expect it. We’ve felt the tug of secularization most when we’ve been enjoying seasons of growth. It’s so easy for success to cloud drift. But it’s always there. As Christian leaders, we must daily commit ourselves to protecting and celebrating what matters most in the institutions God has entrusted to us.
So here is my pondering to you, Dear Army: How do we even notice mission drift when it happens in our big Army? And secondly, how do we course correct if our Army is Titanic and it takes all of us to turn the ship around? Can this be done? What are some of the indicators of mission drift that you see? Would loss of constituents be an indicator? Would leadership disconnect be another? Would program not missionally based also sound alarms? What kinds of safe-guards can we put into place to help us avoid this trap? How might we course correct?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments and concerns.
Something more for our Army to ponder today.
Smethurst, M. (2014, March 10). The subtle danger of mission drift. The gospel coalition.
Retrieved from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-subtle-danger-of-mission-drift
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions written here are not necessarily the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army. Reader discretion is advised.*