Monday, September 8, 2008

Ethics, Practical Preaching, and Mission Creep

In the military, there is a term called mission creep. Mission creep happens after you succeed at your real mission. Usually mission creep happens when others place new tasks on your plate and so your mission creeps further and further away from its initial intent. There is also self-inflicted mission creep, where our own success makes us arrogant and we start to take on additional tasks that detract from our original mission. Sometimes, you are forced to engage in mission creep because someone else is not doing their job. In this case, you cross over into someone else's job description to cover for them.

In most cases, if you are not constantly fighting against engaging in mission creep, you travel down the road to catastrophic failure. The more mission creep you dabble in, the further you lose sight of your real mission. You have to shut out the distractions and eleminate the unneccessary efforts. You have to prioritize.

Know your mission. Accomplish your mission.

Mission creep is the process of adding another chainsaw to the juggler over and over again until somebody loses something important.

I have noticed that the motivation behind relevant preaching sounds like the pastoral version of mission creep. I am sure that all the different causes of mission creep effect churches and cause them to stray from the mission: preach Christ crucified.

Maybe there are ethical, behavioral, and relationship problems that the families and the culture are no longer able or willing to deal with... stay on the mission.

Maybe there is pressure to engage in mission creep. Maybe people want things to be different in the church. Maybe people want the church to start picking up the slack left by people who have abdicated their vocational responsibilities... stay on the mission.

Maybe there is a temptation to make things more relevant and practical. Maybe people in the church feel like they have this Gospel thing down pat and can move on to other things... stay on the mission.

Fixing people's complex family problems is someone else's mission. Teaching parents how to parent their children is someone else's mission. Training people in the particulars of ethics is someone else's mission [*cough* head of household *cough*]. Does the church have an important role in supporting these things? Of course. Is this the mission that Christ gave His church? No.

Ultimately, mission creep distracts you from your primary task. When that primary task is proclaiming the Gospel without error and administering the means of grace to sinners, mission creep cannot be tolerated. The primary mission is critical. No one other than the church can do what we are called to do. There is no place for distraction or multi-tasking.


Christopher D. Hall said...

Good observations. I need to think about this more. Could mission creep in the LCMS also be missiolatry?

Mike Baker said...

I think that mission creep is in Pietism, relativist practice, and "Purpose Driven" elements of the LCMS. In my opinion, LCMS missiolatry falls under two other catagories of bad military practice:

1. Target Fixation

Any task that you do is a combination of directive and implied tasks. Directive tasks are ones that are explicitly mandated to you. Implied tasks are all of the things that you need to do in order to carry out your directive.

Example: Say you have a unit that is a Search and Rescue team. Their job is to go rescue lost and injured personnel. That is their directive. ...but there are tons of implied tasks there that are as important if not more important than the directive "Search and Rescue." The unit needs to be able to medically treat the people that they rescue.

If you only practice directive tasks (Search and Rescue) and neglect implied tasks (Piloting, first aid, etc), you will find the people, but they will die before you rescue them. The end result is a failed directive because the implied tasks were neglected.

When your directive is "missions", the implied task is "with true doctrine". If you ignore the implied task, your directive is a failure.

Paralysis by Analaysis

This happens when you plan and organize too much. You becomed paralyzed by your planning and research and never act.

The Army uses the 1/3 - 2/3 system:
1/3 of your prep is spent planning
2/3 of your prep is spent rehearsing
Then you execute.

Paralysis by Analaysis ignores this system and becomes all about the plan and the program and not about success.

When it is bad:
2/3 of your prep is spent planning
1/3 of your prep is spent rehearsing
Then you execute unprepared

When it is horrible:
3/3 of your prep is spent planning
You don't rehearse
You fail in your execution

When it is catastrophic:
3/3 of your prep is spent planning
You don't rehearse
You continue to plan instead of moving on to execution.
You never execute.

This is what I see when I analyze the missiolatry and the traps it has fallen into. This is why they are not doing as well as they expect and why they are running into resistance. They are fixated on the directive of missions without the implied task of doctrine. They are spending all of their time planning and working on programs instead of just getting people to execute.