One of the greatest dangers facing the Church today is mission drift. It is not unique to the Church but it is especially devastating when it poisons the community of God’s people.
Mission drift is something every organization experiences; it’s slowing drifting from your core mission over a period of time and through a variety of circumstances. It leaves people asking the question, “How did we get here?” – and causes many people to abandon the organization because the reality is disconnected from the vision.
Consider the Church.
We began 2,000 years ago as a small group of people following a crucified (yet risen) Savior who ascended to be with the Father in heaven. It has morphed into a religious empire that spends millions of dollars on branding, marketing, and building campaigns while people around the world die without every hearing the name of Jesus. We have forgot the reason we exist; we have lost sight of our core mission.
Unfortunately, this was already happening BEFORE the Church officially started! After Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, he spent a period of 40 days teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God. At the end of this time, they ask him this question –
“Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6)
Jesus, not impressed with their questions, offers them a sharp rebuke and correction –
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.(Acts 1:7)
They make two dangerously wrong assumptions:
1. They assumed the Kingdom of God correlates with their political interests.
In the 1st century, the Jewish people were subjected to the sovereignty of the Roman Empire. As a result, many Jews were longing for the advent of the Savior. The reason many Jewish people rejected Jesus is because they expected the Savior to be a military king (following the example of David) who would overthrow Rome through force and set up a Jewish theocracy on earth. Instead they got Jesus – a crucified king who inaugurated the Kingdom of God through his unjust death by the very empire they expected him to overthrow.
Now that Jesus has risen from the dead, the disciples thought he was going to overthrow the Roman Empire and establish them as leaders of the great Jewish nation. They wrongly assumed that the Kingdom of God was the same thing as their kingdom in this world. We do the same thing when we seek to politicize the incredible message of the Gospel. When we wield our influence in the culture to wage a war on political ideologies rather than spiritual enemies, we are falling into the same trap.
The Church’s goal is not to make American great again. Our mission is to make Jesus famous and show how following Jesus supersedes the influence of every nation on earth. The day is coming when the United States of America – as well as every other nation – will only be a footnote in the pages of history. The only Kingdom that will last into eternity is the Kingdom of God. The same Kingdom that was established through the crucifixion of Jesus; not a 1st century cultural war.
2. They assumed they could know when the end of the world would be.
The second assumption in their question is that the timing of the end was knowledge available to them. This belief still poisons many Christians groups (especially cults). I remember one specific example from an evangelist named Harold Camping who predicted the world was going to end on May 11th, 2011. His organization spent millions of dollars on billboards and marketing to get their message out.
Guess what – he was wrong (as was every false teacher that predicted the end of the world before him).
If you are the type of Christian who carries your end-time chart around, studies the significance of so-called blood moons, and tries to identify every world leader as the anti-Christ – you are focusing on the wrong thing. To paraphrase Jesus’ teaching – it’s none of your business. Instead, seek to witness to your co-workers, neighbors, and community that God’s love has been displayed to sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Do all of this from the power of the Holy Spirit; not the pseudo-power of your own wisdom.
If their assumptions are wrong, what exactly IS the mission of the church? Here’s what Jesus says in this same passage:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Jesus makes it clear – we are called to be Spirit-empowered witnesses to our community, our nation, and the entire world. A witness in a courtroom is simply a person who testifies about what he has seen, heard, or experienced as it relates to the case. Being a Spirit-empowered witness means we testify to the world about what we have seen, heard, or experienced in our time with Jesus. He does not send us into the world to win arguments – he sends us into the world to witness to the radical message of the Gospel.
Let’s put down our picket signs, end-time charts, and political bantering. Instead, join me in praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to give us an all-consuming passion to know Jesus and make Him known in every sphere of life.