Fighting the Wrong Battle?

Hiroo Onada c. 1944

Did you ever hear the story of the Japanese soldier, who continued fighting World War 2 until 1974? It’s a true story and his name is Hiroo Onada. He was an intelligence officer who was assigned to Lubang Island in the Philippines with the orders to do all he could to hamper Allied attacks on the island. His instructions were specific that under no circumstances was he to surrender! When the Allies overtook the island, unlike most of the rest who did surrender, he took to the hills with three others in his command.

They continued to carry out occasional raids on the Philippine police as they had opportunity. A number of times they came upon leaflets telling them that the war had ended, but they dismissed them as Allied propaganda, so they continued on. Over the years one walked away from the rest and surrendered, and two were killed in gunfire. Only Onada was left, but he continued on for quite awhile.

Onoda (second left) walking from the jungle where he had hidden since World War 2.

It wasn’t until 1974, that another Japanese man went looking for him and found him. The two became friends, but still Onada would not surrender. He would only do so if his commanding officer ordered him. Through his friend the Japanese government found that commanding officer, who met Onada and handed him his orders to cease fighting and surrender.

Have we as the church fallen out of communication with our commander, that like Onada we are fighting for things that don’t matter? Though there is a war with Satan (Eph. 6:10-12), have the battle lines shifted so we are shooting civilians way behind the front? Do we throw spiritual bombs at Catholics? Are we still targeting the fundamentalist-modernist controversy with the liberal denominations? Are we up in arms, when a young woman is dressed immodestly? These are still important issues that need to be addressed. However the biggest battle that we need to concentrate on is the secular wars; they’re slowly eating away at not only our moral base, but also our freedom to practice our faith. Some are called to fight the war in the public arena, but where the everyday person in the church needs to battle is for individuals to come to know the Lord. So we should reach out to people around us, love and care for them, and share the good news of the gospel with them. Like in any war the one with the most territory wins. The embattled¬†territory is people’s lives!

Some are hidden away like Onada, but all it takes is for someone to go look for him and become his friend, and get in touch with the commanding officer for him, so he can surrender to Him.

Avoiding Mission Drift

From Harvard’s Diploma

Here is a test question: what institution of higher education had as its mission statement, “To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ?” No, not Dallas Seminary nor Wheaton College. It’s Harvard! Can you believe it? It’s far from that today. As a recent president of the university admitted, “Things divine have been central neither to my professional nor my personal life.” The only hints remaining are the words on their diplomas, which read: Veritas Christo Et Ecclesiae, which means “Truth for Christ and the Church.” It had been primarily a training school for ministers. Today as a secular school with no denominational affiliation, Harvard has drifted far from its original mission, but it’s easy to do. *

It’s like watching your younger children on a beach on the Outer Banks. They are having fun, jumping and diving in the big waves, but you have to take into account the current. Because it you don’t, they will slowly move down the beach out of sight. They won’t even know it, so every few minutes you have to yell out to them and wave them back in front of your spot on the beach.

The Waves on the Outer Banks

As the currents of society and the world around us swirl and change, so its easy to change with it. Like an ocean it’s so slow and imperceptible, we don’t even see the movement. And before we know it, the basic things have changed completely.

Like any organization, the church can suffer mission drift as well. Though I don’t know of any churches that wouldn’t identify¬†themselves as churches, there are many whose mission has subtly changed over time. Think of churches that in their early years before the American Revolution were founded or flourished because of the Great Awakening. Now over two hundred years later their main work is no longer proclaiming the gospel, but speaking of feeding the poor, correcting injustice and other issues of society. These are good things, but where is the preaching of the gospel that was their main mission? Some would respond by saying, “Those things are the gospel.” And they make my point!

Drifting Off Course

Even in churches of the 20th century, it’s easy to drift. Maybe we haven’t devised a new mission, but have we lost enthusiasm for the old one? Do we still operate with the fire of the founders? Do we do the same things in the same way but aren’t really sure why? Even a generation later, the sense of the mission can fade considerably.

Like any good organization that wants to stay true to its purpose, it’s got to be waved back to its original position. Preaching should do that, but even more the leaders of the church should periodically revisit its original documents based on scripture. What does the constitution say is the reason it exists? What is its doctrinal stand? Sometimes we take these for granted and that is when we are in danger. Every few years the church should recommit to its purpose because mission drift happens to the best of us.

* Ideas in this paragraph taken from Mission Drift, by Peter Greer and Chris Horst