John Ortberg, in Overcoming Your Shadow Mission, is relentless in developing this theme as the pitfall of many a promising leader. That he follows the experience of the shadow mission as it appears throughout Scripture and describes how shadow missions function in individuals, groups, churches, and organizations is one of the strengths of the book. The exercises he provides for persons and groups seem to be workable or at least adaptable, as well.
What is a "shadow mission?" I see a shadow mission as anything that diverts our energy and focus away from the ultimate purpose or mission of our lives, or the life of a congregation. And it appears a little differently for everyone. We loose sight of why we're doing what we're doing. The ego is endlessly creative in subverting the holy and life-giving in our lives to some meager purpose, self-serving as well as short-sighted.
Donald Trump's narcissism is not unique to him. He was known to have said, "Every woman I have ever met has flirted with me- either knowingly or unknowingly." For spiritual types, the shadow mission could be present in a narcissism that boasts in being spiritually mature and centered.
I like Ortberg's development of this theme, though his reading of the Bible is more personal and pietistic. For example, though he details the personal stories of Esther and Samson, among others, what could be a very legitimate case for shadow missions of nations, is left out. That, in my opinion, is a critique that is not without relevance for the church in a world where people and nations uncritically rely on violence and sing gleefully about bombing other countries to satisfy the war party.
So while Esther is a great character study about overcoming the shadow mission, is Esther's heroics subverted by the larger shadow mission of an nation that is not only allowed to defend itself, but also, given the right to kill all of their enemies, including women and children (read, Esther 8:11-13)? In this case, it's the wounded and terrified who then become those who would wound and terrify others. The fruit of this thinking is more dead bodies (9:5-17), and one of the goriest passages in Scripture.
Reflective Christians will enjoy Ortberg's talent in telling the story of the shadow mission, but I believe will be left hanging as a result of screening out the rest of the story.
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