“Mission drift” is a term used to describe how an organization or company gradually gets off course from its intended, stated and often-original purpose.
It happens when the eyes of leaders are drawn to something that may be worthy but isn’t part of the group’s purpose in being.
That’s not to suggest redirection is never in order — as sometimes it may be. In fact, being consistent with one’s stated mission requires honest and ongoing reconsideration.
Issues and context change. But if the declared primary mission does not, then it is important for organizational leaders to ensure a level of consistency.
Jesus, however, didn’t show much interest in creating an organizational structure when he gathered some rag-tag, risk-taking disciples by offering them the chance to give up their possessions and livelihoods, and possibly die early.
His mission statement spilled out of the singular call to “follow me.” Yet, versions of “Christianity” galore have emerged — shifting or drifting in various ways from this primary calling.
To say something or someone is “Christian” today says very little. We have to know what is meant by that designation — and what divergent or even contradictory mission might be at play.
Of course, various Christian expressions can rightly assume specific roles to serve the common good. And organizational leaders are charged with keeping the attention and resources on those particular purposes.
The work of Good Faith Media — and, in particular, Nurturing Faith Journal, which I have guided for 22 years — is no exception. It remains helpful, amid affirmation and opposition, to evaluate whether we stay true to our mission.
Times change. Issues change. Technology changes. Therefore, our methods change and our offerings expand. But how do these changes relate to our larger, stated and original purpose and mission?
Nurturing Faith Journal (now part of Good Faith Media) has a history and mission that informs our work today though we are in a different time culturally.
The publication was brought into being by founding editor Walker Knight and other courageous people in 1983 — first as SBC Today and then renamed Baptists Today under the editorship of Jack Harwell.
The latest rebranding and expansion of resources have occurred while I’ve been editor.
In the simplest terms, Walker and others were deeply concerned about the rising fundamentalism within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) that threatened much of what they held dear.
So, they launched a national publication that was free of interference in order to speak honestly and openly about this destructive movement that continues its poisonous ways.
While religious and political fundamentalism — driven by white male authoritarianism, coercive creedalism and carefully controlled information — seized the SBC, it was (and is) not limited to the denominational machinery.
There is a clear connection — a traceable consistency — to today’s cultural challenges that should not be ignored.
The same methods — and often the same persons or their descendent leaders — play key roles in the current political realm that advances white cultural dominance, authoritative control and widespread misinformation.
In the midst of this environment, there are those who call us to be “less political” or to be “political but not partisan.” Those warnings are understood and appreciated.
If not careful, however, that approach easily devolves into false equivalencies of “both sides” that seek equal criticism where there is not equal offense. Or, in the name of being “fair” or “keeping the peace,” it tamps down much-needed awareness of and responses to damaging forces.
And, frankly, being necessarily disruptive at times — when misinformation and destructive practices are on clear display, especially within Americanized Christianity — seems very consistent with our mission to speak boldly and truthfully.
Individuals, denominations and political parties — throughout our nation’s religious and broader history — have advocated for positions and policies that contrast with the life and teachings of Jesus. When they do so, regardless of their affiliations, it is important for those who know better and have an amplified voice to call them out.
If one seeks a biblical perspective, just take note of how the prophets of old aimed their warnings at deserving targets, not vague references to both sides. And Jesus reserved his harshest rhetoric for those specific persons whose political and religious legalism brought harm to others.
Therefore, from an editorial perspective and philosophy, we stand firm on our mission to counter such misrepresentations of Christianity — and patriotism, for that matter — that do not align with the ways in which Jesus taught his followers to treat others. And we do so, not arrogantly, but with a keen awareness of our own shortcomings and limited vision.
In the same way this publication long ago sought to tell the truth, even uncomfortable truth, about the destructive forces of religious/political fundamentalism that arose within and conquered the Southern Baptist Convention, we will be equally truthful, without timidity, in identifying, examining and opposing the related white Christian nationalism that is deeply embedded within much of Americanized Christianity today and running rampant in the U.S., and is clearly and completely at odds with the life and teachings of Jesus, whom we are called to follow.
We seek to be informative and inspiring, not divisive. Admittedly, we do so imperfectly and therefore welcome feedback when readers feel we have missed our mark.
However, ignoring religious and cultural forces that are rooted in falsehoods and bad theology, just because they are controversial, is not an option. This is especially so when they harm people, advance injustice, defy our historic principles, damage the Christian witness, and fail to serve the common good.
To do so would be to drift from our mission — or, more importantly, our calling.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.