9 Ways to Correct Mission Drift in a Church

Today, I respond to previous posts about signs and causes of mission drift in a church. Maybe one of these ideas will help you influence your church in the right direction: 

  1. Prioritize prayer for God’s power and direction. I’ve read a number of works on mission drift, and few raise the importance of praying for a congregation to regain its mission. Because so much can easily distract us from the mission, however, we need the work of the Spirit in our individual and congregational lives to turn our attention back to the mission. 
  2. Get the right leaders on board, even if you do it one person and position at a time. The ship won’t turn around apart from leaders with vision and backbone. Prayerfully choose the right ones. 
  3. Re-teach the church’s mission, and then re-teach it again. And again. And again. Teach it until the congregation knows, understands, and buys into the mission. Then, teach it clearly to every potential new member who attends. 
  4. Build a supportive team, and make hard calls as needed to get back to the mission. It’s much, much easier to make these calls when you know you’re not standing alone. Having somebody guarding your back is important. 
  5. Do the heavy work of evaluating if/how each ministry contributes to the mission. This work can be difficult—and divisive at times—but it’s necessary. If the task feels too risky to you, begin with a less critical ministry to evaluate. Revising or ending that kind of ministry may be less costly. 
  6. DO simple ministry in the community. Using ideas like those in resources like Steve Sjogren’s 101 Ways to Reach Your Community, get a few people in your congregation to get outside the walls of the building. Simple, reproducible acts of Christian kindness can help believers see the mission again. 
  7. Celebrate the wins—particularly the wins of changed lives. I wish I could adequately describe for you the response we’ve received after telling the story of my mom’s recent conversion. Thousands have read her story, and many have written to me to tell me how encouraged they were. Victories renew our passion for the work. 
  8. Don’t miss opportunities to remove obstacles to the mission. Here, I’m primarily talking about sacred cows and ineffective programs. Frankly, COVID has given us opportunity to determine what really matters as a church; I just pray we don’t go backwards when this crisis is past. 
  9. Make sure someone or some team is assigned to keep the church’s eyes on the mission in the future. Whoever that person is would understand the possibility of mission drift, recognize its signs, and help the church avoid it. When no one has this task, drift is much more likely.

What would you add to this list?   


  • Robin G Jordan says:

    Matt Johnson, the pastor of the Journey Church in Murray, Kentucky in which I was involved for 10 years and with which I still have connections regularly preached on “See a Need. Meet a Need.” He encouraged both individuals and small groups to identify needs in the community that they could meet–either on their own or with others. He encouraged them to get involved with community groups and organizations and join in community service projects. This not only helped people get out of the church as Sunday worship mindset but also enabled them to form relationships with unchurched people. It also helped to establish a positive image for the church with the community. The church launched “For Calloway,” https://www.facebook.com/forcalloway/. FOR {your county or community’s name] is a growth strategy that is mission-focused: https://theforcompany.com/. With Matt’s encouragement I began preaching at a small church in a neighboring county, which had no pastor. Some churches will at regular intervals engage in various community service projects and mission-related activities on a Sunday instead of having a worship gathering. The Journey sponsors short-term mission trips outside of the United States. It has supported orphanages and other ministries outside of the US and new church plants in other parts of the state. The important thing is to emphasize that the church does not exist to serve us. It exists to serve others. Sunday worship is not discipleship. Churchgoing is not following Jesus. With a smaller, older church with which I have had experience, I would preach on the idea of being good neighbors, how can we be good neighbors to those around us, how can we be good neighbors to our neighborhood or community. A church can make an impact on a neighborhood or community and beyond in small ways, through little things. I would encourage people to walk their neighborhood or community (drive through it) and pray for the people who live or work there. God will often show us needs that a small church might meet. A small church can also host the meetings of community groups and organizations. From the small church where I preached, I learned that people who are not mission-minded need to understand what they are being asked to do, what it is supposed to accomplish, and how long it will take. Otherwise, they will expect immediate results and will give up when they are not forthcoming. They will develop a “We tried that and it didn’t work” mindset. It may take a lot of work to move from a “What’s in it for us?” mindset to a “How can we bless this neighborhood or community and make a lasting impact on it?” mindset.

  • charles kile says:

    What I am going to do as a community singles ministry with 270 singles without church homes and 770 singles from 424 churches, is go to ethnic oriented churches and ask to work in concert with their needs. In a concert different instruments make different sounds but blends into music. Each of these churches with their permission will advertise events on my two meetup groups. In our communities, there are people from other countries and they have their own connection to their native churches. In 1987 as an Oklahoma Choctaw Tribal Member, God placed on my heart to serve the White and African American community of singles Raleigh NC as I was praying in Wilburton Oklahoma to be a missionary to disconnected Christians. Missions opportunities maybe 3/10ths a mile from your own church or 3 states from your home church.

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