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Slide1-300x231The Oxford Dictionary defines Mission Creep as:

gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in an unplanned long-term commitment.

Which is a good, albeit restrictive, definition. I think it overly restrictive because while its origins are in the military, we all, as persons and organizations are subject to it. We often speak of it in relation to Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly since so many seemed to believe Colin Powell’s assertion that we have to abide with ‘The Pottery Barn Rule’. We don’t, by the time some country has done enough bad things to get the US (or the UK) exercised enough to commit troops to go over and break things, they deserve the pain of living in the mess they made.

And that is one of the primary attributes of mission creep, it applies almost exclusively to those who try to do good. Stalin didn’t have the problem, he simply told his generals to kill as many as necessary and let the rest starve. That simplifies things greatly, although it might compromise your meeting with God later.

Another organization that is subject to mission creep is the church, actually all of them Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Independent, what have you, even the Church of Bosco. Why? Because we take our cue from Christ who told us to ‘Feed His sheep’. That’s all very well but I would submit we have witnessed incredible mission creep in this.

  • I don’t really believe feed My sheep means provide cradle to grave security whether or not that particular sheep produces wool or not.
  • Nor do I necessarily believe that it is our responsibility to provide for all sheep, whether of our flock or not, a fold.
  • Nor do I think that Feed My sheep implies a duty to feed the neighborhood wolves as well.
  • Nor am I especially convinced that it was intended that the sheep themselves should be forced to provide for the less fortunate sheep. Isn’t that the Shepard’s responsibility?
  • I’m further not convinced that the sheep should be forced to provide education for all the lambs, at no cost to them or their families.

And see that‘s a goodly bit of my problem, none of these things are bad, in fact they are all good, some very good. But they are not the primary mission of the church. The mission of the church is, as Matthew 28 states:

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.


Anything that the corporate church does beyond that is mission creep. Some, such as programs to feed, house, and clothe the destitute, from our own resources have worked out very well.

But at some point we got confused, and decided that it would be easier to delegate those missions to the state which could fund them by coercing the people to pay for them, and that is not so good, and I think is one of the main reasons we are now raising generations of people who will be dependent on others all of their lives.

  • I would submit that it is not the mission of the church to preach on economics, although it surely is concerned with ethics and truthfulness.
  • I would submit that it is not the place of the church to preach on climatology, even though man was given dominion over the earth and all its creatures. It is well to remember that dominion is not communion.

We all know the old cliche that states, “Jack of all trades and master of none”. Well, it has become a cliche because it is true: I’m a very good electrician, I’m a passable plumber, and a competent carpenter/cabinetmaker, and HVAC technician. I’m not a competent butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. That is true for the church as well.

In addition, it needs to remember its mission. Its mission is not to be relevant (whatever that might mean), it is not its mission to advise on industrial matters, nor to set fisheries policy, not even to advise on energy policy.

It is it’s mission to build men (and women) fit for the purpose of all those things, if one assumes they are all licit (which is a different discussion), I would submit that it is failing in that mission.

Above all, it is is mission to lead people to the Christ, and it is failing in that mission so badly that it is driving its own members into the wilderness not least because it thinks its mission has become all of the things we have mentioned above, except to save souls, and so not only has mission creep run amok, but we have lost sight of the only legitimate mission of our churches.

When we figure out how to return to our real mission, we will again be relevant, until then, not so much.