10 Signs of Mission Drift in a Church

Many churches have long lost their focus on a clear mission that compels them forward. Here are some signs that a congregation is in mission drift.

  1. If the church has a mission statement, nobody knows it. That often includes the pastoral staff. The statement is only words on a website.
  2. No one can speak of a clear direction for the church. The goal is only to get through the next Sunday. Survival, rather than thriving, is the objective.
  3. Much other than the Great Commission has grabbed the attention of the church. Sometimes that’s simply trying to live in what is essentially “maintenance mode”; sometimes it’s continually dealing with internal conflict.
  4. The church speaks of the “good ole days” rather than hope for the future. That is, they’re living in the past with too little focus on the future. Change seldom happens.
  5. They can speak of no new outreach ministries in the last several years. They’ve turned inward, and they’re just not thinking much about the Great Commission.
  6. The church budget is just a document; it has no intentional Great Commission prioritization. In fact, it may be the same budget used for years, simply with annual increases with little rhyme or reason.
  7. The church hires positions just like they always have, without much consideration for the greatest need to help reach people and make disciples. They don’t think about what needs to change in staffing in order to fulfill their mission.
  8. In the name of “unity,” the church is unwilling to make hard decisions to get back on track with mission. Those tough decisions might involve staffing, spending, polity, or sacred cows—but nobody’s willing to make the call.
  9. The church has grown comfortable with only “transfer” growth. They’re no longer burdened about reaching non-believers. Growth by “swapping sheep” is sufficient for them.
  10. Outsiders see the church as only drifting along, but no one in the congregation is having that conversation.Sometimes, others read our situation more clearly than we who are most closely involved in it.

What other signs have you seen? 

1 Comment

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    Small churches have a tendency to become what may be described as chaplaincies. In the seventeenth century England, particularly during the two civil wars, the nobility and the landed gentry maintained household chaplains. They were clergy who conducted Prayer Book services, which were illegal, and otherwise met the spiritual needs of the members of the household. The chaplain may have also served as a tutor to any children in the household. In a number of small churches one finds what might be described as the modern-day equivalent of these seventeenth century household chaplaincies. The chaplain may be ordained or he may be a lay person. A small group of like-minded people have replaced the household of the noble or landed gentleman. While the group may represent its self as a church, I am not sure that is really an accurate description of what they are. In such chaplaincies one is not likely to find a strong commitment to evangelism and mission. Indeed one is not likely to find any commitment to evangelism and mission. I for a when time served as a license minister of one such church. A number of its members decided that I was not what they wanted in the way of a chaplain. I preached too often for their liking on the importance of evangelism and mission. During one sermon I observed one church member becoming visibly agitated when It talked about telling other people about Jesus. What brought things to a head was when I asked the church members to pray for a boy who shot his fellow students at a local high school. My intention was that they should pray that the boy feel remorse for what he had done and repent. This request did not sit well with the church member who had become agitated during the aforementioned sermon. He started a boycott of my sermons. I was sharing the pulpit at the time. I eventually was left with no option but to withdraw my candidacy to become the church’s pastor.

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