“…we were not looking for praise from people”
(I Thessalonians 2:6)
“To give into our shadow mission should be our greatest fear.”
A few months ago, my wife and I flew into Skopje, Macedonia to visit with some Christian workers there. It was late evening and the 737 was descending to the runway in darkness. We heard the flaps and the landing gear come down and we held hands preparing for the immanent jolt of landing. Suddenly the engines roared back into life and the nose sharply pitched back upward and we saw the lights of the runway disappear below us. The problem? Sidewinds! Sidewind gusts can blow a plane off course and are one of the greatest fears of pilots, especially during landing.
The same is true in ministry leadership. John Ortburg calls the sidewinds of leadership, “Shadow mission”. In his book “Overcoming Your Shadow Mission” John says; “Everybody has a shadow mission. Our lives, and the lives of groups we are a part of, can drift into the pursuit of something unworthy and dark. To give into our shadow mission is – or should be – our greatest fear.” Anyone in leadership has -or better have – a picture of where they are going, what they want to accomplish. Those in Christian ministry have a sense of direction, a compelling wind in their back that pushes them towards God’s call. But is that the only wind that is blowing?
The apostle Paul was concerned about side winds, about potential shadow missions. In writing to the Thessalonian Christians about his brief visit in their city he says: “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. We are not trying please people but God… you know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed…we were not looking for praise from people…” Can we relate to Paul’s concerns expressed in these verses? Anyone out there a people pleaser? Anyone looking for approval? Anyone ever compared their results with someone else’s? Anyone say nice things about someone so they’ll say nice things about me? John Stott comments on what Paul says this way; “All three evils, the flattery, the mask, and the hunger for compliments are illicit ways of using ministry to build ourselves up”. OUCH! Using ministry to build myself up. Many times in my 40+ years of ministry, as I walked toward the podium to teach, I was aware that alongside my deep desire for the truth of God to be heard was a lurking shadow mission, a side wind that wanted to push me towards using the pulpit for personal approval. I can feel that side wind even now, will anyone read this blog and send me back a note of approval? How can we handle side winds? …to be continued