Eight Warning Signs Your Church is Drifting from God’s Mission

Sam Rainer

April 15, 2015

God’s mission is clear: He seeks and saves the lost. Therefore churches should be intentionally gospel-centered, intentionally evangelistic, and intentionally seek justice. A church excited about the gospel is a church with a laser focus on making disciples. Churches with purpose pour collective energy into one direction.

Churches without purpose tend to drift. Like the flotsam and jetsam in the sea, a church adrift does little more than float along as aimless debris. I have yet to see a church drift towards God’s mission. The current of apathy always pulls away. It’s obvious to point out drifting churches as lacking purpose. But what causes this drift? What are some early warning signs of an unraveling in a congregation? Let’s look at eight practical indicators.

The chatter is all about people and not Jesus. Not all chatter is gossip. People talk—it’s part of being human. Conversations in the church can be about any number of things. Not all of them are bad. However, when people start talking about themselves without any mention of Christ, your church is not only drifting, the congregation is dangerously inward.

You no longer celebrate God’s mission in a worship service. When people go, the church should celebrate. When God sends, the church should erupt in praise. A lack of a celebratory spirit over God’s mission is one indication a church is drifting.

The percentage given to missions out of the budget is shrinking. One clear way to determine a church’s priorities is the budget. If your church is giving less and less to missions each year, then it is likely drifting

Church leaders do not speak about the lostness of the nations. Do your church leaders call attention to the billions that don’t know Christ? Is your church broken over people who have never heard the gospel? Worse yet, sometimes church leaders rant and rail against other nations as if they don’t deserve the gospel. Mission drift often occurs when people believe cross-cultural sending doesn’t apply to their congregation.

New believers are perceived as disturbing the peace of the body. If a small group or Bible class would rather not deal with the messiness of assimilating a new believer, then it’s drifting from God’s mission. The messiness of new believers should be seen as God’s beautiful work, not as a disturbance to the status quo.

There is more of a focus on the older generation than the younger generation. All generations are important. In fact, a church full of just one generation—young or old—is disobedient. Every church is called outward to reach others unlike those already there. However, the reality is most people are saved at a younger age, not older. The church should resource the ministries with the greatest fruit. Additionally, children don’t often get to voice their preferences or concerns. Therefore, sometimes in churches, the older generation’s concerns trumps that of the younger generation. A church drifts when the older generation is willing to sacrifice the souls of the younger generation in order to cling to their preferences.

Few care about the persecuted church. Your church should be acutely aware of what is currently happening to Christians all over the globe. And your people should be praying. Often.

It takes more to win less. It is possible for a church to grow numerically and do less kingdom work. People can gather for worship while personal evangelism is drying up in their lives. Praying for lost friends does not happen haphazardly. Sharing your faith is not accidental. When a church grows numerically while having fewer conversions, it’s potentially drifting without purpose.

No church is perfect. No person bats 1.000 spiritually. Everyone will drift at some point. Every church will struggle for a season with finding a purpose. The problem comes when people seek the status quo rather than seeking the lost. The problem is exacerbated when whole churches become comfortable drifting.

10 comments on “Eight Warning Signs Your Church is Drifting from God’s Mission”

  1. Jimmy Smith says:

    Thanks Sam. Very true. Thanks for writing. I am a DOM and will share this with our churches. Do I have your permission to share it in our local newsletter? I will credit you appropriately.

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Jimmy – Sure thing. As long as you credit my blog as the source, then I’m fine with that. Blessings.

  2. Bobby Wood says:

    Sam, great advice. We’re a young church plant that understands the need for mission, but I find it’s easy to get pulled off of mission on a weekly basis. The other “tasks” as a church that seem to be important at the moment should never take us off of the main mission. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Thanks Bobby. Praying for you and your church this evening.

  3. Danielle says:

    I am happy for your enthusiasm. America needs lots of young generation like you. Do you follow Ravi Zacharias ministry? We need to pray for church leaders all over the world, either the right or the wrong one. I am concern with false church leaders who has 1000’s faithful followers. And also pray for other believers too, since they have been dragging by false ancestor’s leaders. May God be with you.

  4. Tom Payne says:

    “There is more of a focus on the older generation than the younger generation.” Personal experience has been just the opposite. After 40 years in church leadership, moving twice to five year stints in new churches has been a re-iteration of a national trend of marginalization of older folks shifting the focus onto younger folks. Balance is always a tricky issue especially when one group is reticent to express themselves. It’s one of those things you never expect in an institution based of inclusion. JMHO

  5. Craig Giddens says:

    Jesus’ mission to the church was revealed to us through the Apostle Paul. This mission is two fold; save the lost and grow the saved. It’s not one or the other. You’ve got to have both to have a healthy church.

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