A few weeks ago, fishermen off the coast of the Philippines, located a drifting boat. Inside the 40 foot long yacht, was a dead and mummified man slumped over the radio of the boat. He was later identified as Manfred Fritz Bajorat from Germany. He had not been seen since 2009. The boat’s radio, GPS, and other valuables, were found onboard. It is thought that he may have died of a heart attack. As it turns out, his boat drifted over 1,000 nautical miles before it was discovered.
Think about it. The man was dead on the boat, and yet the boat continued to drift in the water. This is a fascinating story, and the truth may never fully be known about what happened. There are some lessons here that I think can be valuable. If we are not careful, the churches we lead can fall prey to organizational drift. They can potentially realize it only after it is too late, and someone does an autopsy on the remains.
Drifting is gradual. Once the drift begins, an organization can get so far off of its intended course, that it makes it very difficult to recover. Churches regularly drift from orthodoxy to heterodoxy, from discipline to permissiveness, and from faithfulness to unfaithfulness.
How is it possible to get in such a condition, and how can we avoid it?
First, if we try to go alone, we may end up in a precarious situation. I am very encouraged by the shared leadership approach of many of the newer churches. The current church planting movement as a whole, seems to be doing a much better job of leadership development and multiplication than previous generations. Yet there must be diligence to the effort in order to stay focused.
Second, we need to know where we are going and how we are going to get there. A boat in the ocean, if left to drift, can potentially end up anywhere, or nowhere. So it is with an organization. If there is not a focused intent to move toward a desired goal, drift will inevitably happen.
Third, we need to communicate to others where we are going. If we don’t, how will we know when we reach significant markers along the way? The man whose body was found in the boat, mummified, apparently did not communicate with anyone about where he was going. When he lost his way, and something tragic happened, nobody even knew where to find him. This can’t be the case in the church. With a clear vision and mission, we need to communicate it with those who are invested in the process, and continue to communicate it along the way.
Trust God and follow His leading. He will keep you, and the organization you lead, from being blown into a perpetual drift that is exceedingly perilous.