Shadow Mission

Beneath our mission for God lies our shadow mission. All Christians have one. Some give in to it, and some don’t, but it lurks beneath the surface nonetheless.

A shadow mission is something that is deeply important to us but that leads us away from God’s purposes for our lives. It’s typically just a few degrees off from His will, but those few degrees can lead us far from Him.

For example, if God’s purpose for you is to teach the Word, your shadow mission might be to impress people with your wisdom. If God’s purpose for you is to lead people to Christ, your shadow mission might be racking up the numbers of converts for your spiritual resume. If God’s purpose for you is to give charitably, your shadow mission might be to give more than anyone else you know.

Our shadow mission is Satan’s perversion of our true mission. Knowing how we respond to pleasure and pain, he pulls us away from our authentic mission using our pride and our hurts. The Enemy either:

  • takes our gifts and shows us how we can use them for our own selfish purposes instead of for God’s glory, or
  • uses emotional wounds we received in the past to keep us away from the center of God’s will

What makes the shadow mission so insidious is its connection to our true mission. If it comes from our pride, we risk feeding the beast each time we do the things God created us to do. If it comes from avoiding our wounds, we can be certain that those hurts surround God’s purpose for our lives.

Since the time I heard John Ortberg (Senior Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, CA) teach on this, I’ve been thinking about what mine could be. He said that one way to know is that when our shadow mission is threatened, it provokes a deep and passionate reaction.

This morning, I received an email that made me so angry that it’s taken me several hours to cool off. When I think back on it, I had no reason to get upset. The message was a simple, tactfully delivered piece of feedback, but it threatened my shadow mission. The message poked a stick in an old wound, but in doing so, it helped me discover my shadow mission – I need approval.

I remember several vivid and painful experiences where someone in authority disapproved of me. Even the memory of these events hurts. They made a profound impression on me and taught me that I didn’t want to experience that type of pain again. As a result, I’ve developed a shadow mission to seek approval from those in authority around me.

I’m on to the Enemy now. I know what he’s done. He’s strategically placed those hurts directly around God’s authentic mission for me, and they serve as a threatening barrier. Because of my fear of the pain of disapproval, I retreat from many opportunities to participate with God in the work He is doing.

Each wound is based on a lie – the lie that my approval needs to come from anyone but God. My Creator knows my flaws and loves me anyway. He’s given me His seal of approval, and it’s not based on what I do but on who I am – His child. Nothing I do could ever change my relationship to Him, just like nothing my children do could ever make them someone else’s children.

Pray for me. These truths haven’t made it from my head to my heart yet. Though only eighteen inches separate the two, those inches comprise the longest distance in the universe.

What is your shadow mission? Is it born of pride or of pain? It’s time to examine it. Bring the shadow into the Light.


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