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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Shadow Mission


One of the talks at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit that was meaningful to many on our team was by John Ortberg.  John used to be pastor at Willow Creek and is now at Menlo Presbyterian.  He did almost an expositional talk from the book of Esther around something he has come to call the Shadow Mission.  A Shadow Mission is something that is close to our mission, but is twisted, turned to a different ends, a distortion of our true mission.  It is that thing that draws us away from our true mission and promises to satisfy, but instead of bringing life, brings destruction.  It is what happens when, so subtly, we vear off course from that which we were created for and exchange it for a cheap substitute.  It is the fools gold, the counterfeit dollar, the sham-salesman in our heart that tells us this is the real thing, what we want.  Ortberg says it’s usually a combination (deadly, I’d say… toxic), or our ego and our wounds.  It’s common to say that our greatest strength is also our greatest potential weakness, or possible downfall, and that’s true.  Our Ministry Leadership Team and my Student Ministries Team this week each looked at some biblical passages of people’s shadow missions.  We looked at Jephthah in Judges 10 and 11, and at Jacob in Genesis 25 and on.  Jephthah was a great leader and had the power of persuasion and participation, but he was wounded by not being accepted.  He so wanted to be “great” in his brothers eyes that he turned his gift of leadership and persuasion towards God and bargained with God, which became his downfall.  Ego, and wounds.  Jacob was the heeler, the swindler, the cheat.  He cheated his brother, Esau.  He manipulated his situation with Laban.  Then, pursued by Laban, he is confronted by his past when he comes up on Esau (ironic, isn’t it.  Chased into the past.)  Jacob was running from his shadow mission, which had become his true identity.  He sends gifts to his brother and tries to act like nothing ever happened, and he’s left alone, waiting to meet his brother on the banks of the Jabbok river.  It’s there he confronts not only his shadow mission, but his shadow identity when he wrestles with God.  And when he does, he’s wounded again - but this time for healing and a new name.  Ego, and wounds again.

So, that’s the question.  What is your shadow mission? Or are there many?  Where do your ego and wounds intersect and drive you to do the very things that will lead to your downfall?

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