Last fall, Dr. Piper asked the full-time faculty to read Mission Drift by Peter Greer and Chris Horst (2014), a straightforward study of organizations that have drifted from mission and those that have stayed true, describing the principles behind staying true.
The book jacket describes mission drift as “The unspoken crisis facing leaders, charities, and churches.” Without intentional work, an organization drifts unperceptively from its mission. The drift may start at the top in leadership or may work from the bottom up. Our goal for Oklahoma Wesleyan University is to stay mission true. This goal is realized in the field in our classrooms on campus, in distant sites, and online. You are an important part of achieving this goal.
The book opens with the example of Harvard University founded in 1636 with a solid Biblical mission: “to be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ” (Greer & Horst, p. 16). Just 80 years later, Harvard had evolved to a secular university and Yale University was founded to become the leading Christian college of its day.
Drift is inevitable; it is the natural course of an individual or an institution. According to the second law of thermodynamics, everything in the universe naturally moves or drifts toward decay and disorder. It takes hard and purposeful work to counteract drift.
Greer and Horst (2014) define a mission true organization as the following:
In its simplest form, mission true organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul. (p.27)
Mission true organizations grow and change but their core identity does not. What does that mean for Oklahoma Wesleyan University? It means upholding and protecting the following mission:
As an evangelical Christian university of The Wesleyan Church, Oklahoma Wesleyan University models a way of thought, a way of life, and a way of faith. It is a place of serious study, honest questions, and critical engagement, all in the context of a liberal arts community that honors the primacy of Jesus Christ, the priority of Scripture, the pursuit of Truth, and the practice of Wisdom.
- The primacy of Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is the lens for all learning and the Lord of our daily lives.
- The priority of Scripture as the inerrant and authoritative written Word of God that guides us in all matters of faith, learning, and living.
- The pursuit of Truth as an objective, attainable reality grounded in the person and example of Jesus Christ and anchored in the Bible.
- The practice of Wisdom as the goal for all members of the university community, who work to promote healing and wholeness in a broken culture and hurting world.
Protecting the mission takes work, and it is worthwhile work. Greer and Horst (2014) outline the following three safeguards to prevent mission drift:
- Remain mindful of cultural trends.
- Be prepared to speak to culture but do not allow culture to determine who we are
- Don’t assume successors will inherit the founder’s vision.
- In the AGS, we cannot assume our adjuncts will know the vision and follow it. We must keep it before you.
- Attend to the details in building guardrails.
- Where do we need to shore up guardrails? Let us know where you need help to stay mission true.
Since drift is inevitable, we must build safeguards to prevent it. It is important to note that not all change is drift. “Knowing why [we] exist creates the right filter for change” (Greer & Horst, p.73). Greer and Horst use the example of Jesus who stayed true to His single purpose but modified his method and delivery depending on the culture and audience.
[Jesus’] approach to the Samaritan woman differed from His approach to the Pharisees. His method looked different with the rich young ruler than it did with Zacchaeus. Jesus understood His why. His purpose. And His means of reaching them were as varied as the people themselves: parables, healings, miracles, chastisements, prophetic warnings, blessings, and curses. (Greer & Horst, p. 73)
What a lesson for us from the Master Teacher! Our mission remains unchangeable, but our methods of delivery vary.
One of the simplest, yet most practical chapters in Mission Drift is Chapter 15, “Save the Church.” Individuals and organizations that stay true to mission know that the local church is the anchor for a successful mission. The local church is God’s Plan A (Greer & Horst, p. 171); one “cannot remain Mission True without a rigorous commitment to Christ’s body – the Church” (Greer & Horst, p. 171). What level of commitment do you have to your church? Our adjuncts need to be anchored personally. “Across time and culture and trends, the church remains” (Greer & Horst, p. 173).
For your consideration:
How have you anchored yourself to stay true to Bible principles and a Christian walk? What are you doing to stay true to the mission of Oklahoma Wesleyan University in your teaching?
Will you commit with us to do the hard work to protect our mission from drift?
The lessons and stories shared in this book are a reminder of the need to keep Christ at the center of all we do. It is good reading to challenge us to intentionally stay true to our calling.
Greer, P. & Horst, C. (2014). Mission Drift. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers.