This is our dog Bentley. He is a “Schnorkie,” half Yorkie and half Schnauzer. He will be two in October. Bentley loves to go outside in the afternoon when the sun is high, sit in the middle of the driveway and chase the shadows–shadows of small flying insects as they flit and fly over the concrete slab.
The odd thing about this? Bentley never looks up to see the “real thing,” the actual butterfly, bee, dragon or damsel fly as it floats above his head–he only focuses on the shadows. He misses the beauty of God’s creation directly above him.
Bentley’s behavior is in many ways like ours. In fact, his actions (and my own) remind me of author John Ortberg’s book “Overcoming Your Shadow Mission.” Published in 2008 by Zondervan, Ortberg writes:
“You and I were created to have a mission in life. We were made to make a difference. But if we do not pursue the mission for which God designed and gifted us, we will find a substitute. We cannot live in the absence of purpose. Without an authentic mission, we will be tempted to drift on autopilot, to let our lives center around something that is unworthy, something selfish, something dark–a shadow mission.”
Another way of seeing it: we will miss what God has to offer. It’s that simple. We forgo the beauty of where Jesus is calling us to follow. In pursuing the shadow, we have only a wisp of what is before us.
If you’re a church planter or part of a church-planting movement, think about these possible “shadow missions”:
*A need to be liked–so the vision is sacrificed to please the naysayers and keep people from leaving.
*Personal promotion–excessive social media use to make a name for yourself instead of making the name of Jesus known.
*Using people as objects to grow your church instead of focusing on discipling them in the ways of Christ. Trading quality and authenticity for quantity.
*Sacrificing character for giftedness–cutting corners on your personal devotion, prayer, and study of the Word and instead, relying on your speaking ability to cover for you. Applause is your narcotic.
The above list is incomplete. What is missing? What would you add? Because the question isn’t IF you have a shadow mission, but what is it and will you address it so that it no longer distracts from what God is calling you to? Ortberg writes, “I’ve noticed that when everything is about me–my need to achieve, my need to have success, my need even to survive–the team stumbles….When I go into shadow mission mode, I use my energy and giftedness to get people to applaud me, and the people close to me feel like I don’t have time for them.”
We can die to our shadow mission and live in the light of Christ, or we can continue to live in the shadows, missing all that God has to offer.
I’m praying this week about “shadows” and authentic mission in my life. Will you join me?