What’s your shadow mission?

“Watch out for your shadow mission,” Denise, my fabulous life coach, whispers into the phone.

It sounds quite mysterious.

“What’s that?” I whisper back, looking over my shoulder to see if anyone is watching.

“It’s something that looks and feels like your real mission–but it’s actually an imposter. It’s the good that can become the enemy of the best.”

I nod and tuck that tidbit away. I don’t know my shadow mission in that moment. But I want to find out.

The term comes from one of my favorite authors, John Ortberg. In Overcoming Your Shadow Mission he says this..

A shadow mission is an authentic mission that has been derailed, often in imperceptible ways. Part of what makes the shadow mission so tempting is that it’s usually so closely related to our gifts and passions. It’s not 180 degrees off track; it is just 10 degrees off track.

Long after that first conversation with Denise, I’m driving to an obligation. My heart feels heavy. My head is pounding, I want to pull over and take a nap and/or order ten hot fudge sundaes to go. Yes, ma’am.

I ask myself, “What is going on?”

And it hits me. The shadow mission.

My shadow mission is this: Doing things because people need me–and being needed proves my worth.

When I do things for that reason, it becomes about me. I imagine how appreciative people will be. I get resentful if I’m not properly affirmed. I feel exhausted even if my day hasn’t been especially busy.

In contrast, when I’m living my true mission {Which is encouraging women and helping turn God-sized dreams into reality} it feels very different. Yes, I’m blessed in the process but healing an insecurity through proving my worth isn’t the motivation. I serve out of love. I serve to bring joy to my Master. I’m energized and joyful instead of drained.

What’s your shadow mission? How do you know when you’re slipping into it? Here are some ways to tell…

  • A shadow mission exhausts you while a true mission energizes you
  • A shadow mission comes from guilt or insecurity while a true mission comes from freedom and love
  • A shadow mission is about you while a true mission involves you but also includes God and others
  • A shadow mission leads to resentment while a true mission lets you serve no matter the response
  • A shadow mission makes you feel more distant from God (even though you’re trying to earn his approval) while a true mission brings you closer to him

Most of all, there is just no joy in a shadow mission while a true mission leads to joy even though it may be hard.

So what do you do if you discover you’re living your shadow mission? Well, first you call Denise. Or if you’re not lucky enough to have her as your life coach yet, tell someone that you trust. Say, “I figured out my shadow mission and I need you to help me not fall into it. You have my permission to point out when I do.”

Because shadow missions are sneaky and we will all cross the line into them–many times. What matters is learning over time how to recognize when we do and get back on track quickly.

Let’s all step out of the shadow and in the light, friends. Again and again.

Because that’s where we truly belong.


P.S. As you think about your shadow mission, I want you to remember God’s Heart for YOU! If you leave a comment by midnight Thursday night you will be entered to win the daily calendar reminding you about truths of His love for you.


Until then, are you tired of trying to have it all by doing it all, alone? Stephanie Bryant and I recently shared with Kendra Tillman on her blogtalkradio program how you don’t have to anymore. Listen to the interview here.



  1. Carolyn Reardon says

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It has helped me realize I’ve been in a shadow mission for years. I just need God to help me get on track.

    • Joy C. says

      Carolyn, I hear you. I realize I have been in a shadow mission for years too. Recently I have wondered why I am feeling so used and upset about a situation where I have been helpful. Well…. now I know why. Thank you Holly for this enlightening story about Shadow Missions. I pray that God will help keep me on the road to my real missions.

      • Darlene Rossow says

        I want to bless a very sweet, wonderful child I have known for many years, and now she is a young woman, and I want to thank her for posting it so I could see it.
        To you Holley, thanks it for sharing and helping to open peoples eyes to how mistaken they might have been. I too have discovered that I’ve been duped by a shadow mission for many, many years. I’ve felt upset, sometimes depressed, and even unloved because I have been helpful but felt used and taken for granted and became a bitter person at times. I must have a whole cloud of Shadow Missions over my head and not known what they were or what they were doing to me. Now that I know what they are I can begin anew and pray to God that he will help me find my real missions in life that I lost along my way andhelp me to be the happy person I once was. Sincerely, Darlene

    • Lori Evans says

      This was absolutely perfect timing for me to read. I have been wondering and praying to God as to whether my present job is actually a shadow mission. This really caused me to re-evaluate what is presently occuring in my professional life. Thanks for writing this.

  2. says

    I have learned to recognize this counterfeit (shadow mission) when what I am doing feels like a shoe that doesn’t fit, which signals me that I am getting off track, and it is so easy to do – even unaware, I hope to pay better attention, this post is definitely what I needed to be reminded of today.

    • says

      Amen!! To all the ladies comments…..even I have been there with the “Shadow Mission” I never knew why I myself felt that way, but I thank God, and you Holley for sharing this with us. I ask God to keep me on track as well…because I want to say “YES” to Him. I was blessed once again for the message. GOD bless you Holley and each of you. Peace! :)

  3. Heidi J says

    This hit home – I want others to like/appreciate me; I tend to take my eyes off God and get distracted. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Cynthia says

    I have never heard of the term “shadow mission”. It makes total sense and I can trace that thread through my ministry. Thanks for sharing!

  5. says

    Oooh….very, very interesting, Miss Holley! I found myself nodding as I read. Hmmm….now to figure out all the things I do in my life that are slightly off track. My initial thoughts is that I use those things as an excuse, perhaps, to avoid pursuing my true mission. Because wholeheartedly pursuing my true mission can be scary and difficult. My true mission might include things that I don’t necessarily *want* to do despite knowing in my heart of hearts that those are the exact things God is calling me to…

  6. says

    Thank you for posting this. It seems I am going in a lot of ‘new’ directions lately – all good stuff – but I am wondering if I am entering the shadowlands.

  7. says

    Boy was this an answer to prayer. One I have been earnestly praying. What an on time God we serve. Several doors to ministry have been opened up to me. I know that somehow one of them is wrong. I have been feeling guilty about wanting to turn down a portion of what they need. However, I know God gives me grace to only do what He has called me to do. I also burned out in ministry before and do not wish to overload my plate. Otherwise I will not be effective in showing and sharing Christ. Thanks for the laugh too. Mysterious, and looking over your shoulder. LOL.

  8. Jules says

    This was great to read… Sometimes I feel if i don’t do everything or sign up for every ministry I’m not being a good christian… So glad to read I just need to focus on what GOD has clearly defined as my mission… thanks.

  9. janell says

    “Doing things because people need me–and being needed proves my worth.
    When I do things for that reason, it becomes about me. I imagine how appreciative people will be. I get resentful if I’m not properly affirmed. I feel exhausted even if my day hasn’t been especially busy.”

    this hit me hard, because this is ME!!! I thought to myself,’did she climb into my head for this info?’ because it’s exactly how my little brain thinks!

    thanks for this…actually, lately I have been struggling to distinguish the two–the real mission vs. the shadow mission. I love that you grounded this for me.


  10. Lydia says

    This is so true.
    We can be doing something ‘good’ with all our might and still not be doing right. The difference between the true and the shadow is God. Whether He is in it or is it ‘me’ in it.

  11. Jaymie Freye says

    Holley! I love reading your blog! Most times it seems that what you post fits right into what I tend to be dealing with at the moment. Thanks so much for sharing ~ shadow mission was a GREAT reality check!

  12. Joy says

    Wow! That makes total sense. Shadow missions are all the things we do, not necessarily because we want to, but because we are a) afraid of telling someone “I’m sorry, I cannot do that at this time,” or (b) One so badly wants to fit in, they will do the job hoping someone notices their hard work.

    Our mission is to love God, and people, and do the things HE has called us to do. That makes us free.

    When we are busy doing for everyone else, and it is our turn to have others do for us, no one is available. I’ve done so many things in our church to help give support.

    What about when I need support?

    My step father died, and I did not even receive a card from the people at church, or anyone else for that matter…then, my nephew died (26 yrs old-gun shot) and still not even a card or call from the folks at church…then, my sister got breast cancer…not a card…nothing.

    Am I in the wrong church? Are they so dull to my pain? I don’t mean to be mean, but I am done with the shadow missions. Done! Time to invest my time/resources where God specifically wants me to.

    • Kristy Lynn says

      Joy, I am so sorry to hear that your church lacked to support you during times of hurt in your life. Unfortunately I have been there myself, losing family members and not hearing a word from my church. I pray that God will show you exactly where you should be, whether it is to stay in your church or if He wants you to move on. I also pray that God heals any pain caused by the lack of support from the body. May God show up strongly for you Joy! Many blessings to you, Kristy Lynn

  13. Carrie says

    I had not heard of the term shadow mission, but I am certainly aware of it. Thank you for giving me ways to know I have slipped onto the wrong path, again, and for reminding me that God’s mission will energize me! What an awesome God!

  14. says

    I am shadowing you with your shadow mission, Holley! Oh I can go there…doing things because someone needs me and I so want to fee needed/validated. I do it less now that I’m a woman of a certain age. I was a yes woman while raising my four kids and it near ran me ragged. My loved ones paid the price of my stress at times. I remember one time, my pastor had asked me to do a sort of “Welcome to our church,” job. Following up on visitors who were new to our church and sharing what we had to offer. I was so flattered. I almost said yes…instead I hid from my pastor for a couple of weeks, then I wrote a letter, sobbing through the entire thing. I hated saying no and possibly having him be disappointed in me. I knew this was not something I was called to, though, and through God’s grace I said no. After a couple of weeks of guilt and forging ahead in my position as State Coordinator of Moms In Prayer (formerly Moms In Touch), I was so very thankful I had paid attention to God’s call. Whew…that was a close one, but probably one of the first times I ever said no to a good thing.

  15. Chnstine says

    This was a REALLY good post, but all yours are anyway. The idea of the “shadow mission” can be applied to a variety of things in life. I often find myself doing something but it doesn’t FEEL RIGHT. It’s the shadow mission stealing my joy away. Years ago, being involved in shadow missions led to severe anxiety attacks that led to trips to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack and a bad case of agoraphobia, which eventually left me but took a long time to do so. It’s nice to see someone define this. Thanks! Wish you were around years ago but it was before the computer was available to everyone.

  16. Lorraine says

    Holley- This message brought to my mind that I cannot save the world!! I truly love helping people out in times of need and do what I can–until now! I have gone over to be of help, but now do things out of guilt! Trying to break this cycle because I believe that Jesus does not want me to give out of guilt but out of love!

  17. Liz says

    What great wisdom and insight! Thanks Holley for sharing. Asking the HOLY SPIRIT to show me if my “shadow mission” is present now and when it pops up in my life I’ll quickly recognize it and not let it rob me of GOD’S best for me…His peace and presence! God bless!!

  18. Heidi H. says

    What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing. As I read, I was nodding and completely understanding the concept of shadow missions. I am currently in a transitional time of life with work, family, and church. God seems to be asking that I be still for this moment, yet I could be easily pulled many directions by well-meaning people. Thank you for this gentle reminder to stay focused on God and not be distracted by other good opportunities.

  19. Lauri Haller says

    I read your posts daily, and they all touch some part of me. Today’s post was like reading something in my diary! I truly love doing things for people who need me. It feels good. But sometimes “I get resentful when I’m not properly affirmed”. Wow. So true. Shadow Mission indeed. Thanks for your special way of allowing so many of your blog followers to be “Free” and live in and accept God’s grace!

  20. BrendaS says

    Thanks for your ministry to women, Holley. I’m going through a stage of re-examining what I am doing ‘for the Lord’ and find the doing is so often taking over where there should be time spent with the Lord in the ‘being and becoming’ what He wants me to be! I know that the time spent with Him is where I’ll learn what He wants me to be doing for Him…but it’s so easy to rush around in the busyness of what we think the Christian life should look like…rather than in the special task He has for us.

  21. Michelle Clark says

    Thanks, it made sense to me and will cause some reflection as to what areas I should focus my serving rather than trying to help everywhere and yet then feel unappreciated. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful gift each day … may you continue to shine in your mission!

  22. Ginger says

    I really enjoy your posts. They help me stay centered in the crazy life I have. I am back at school right now, teaching ESL instead of Business/Computers since my position was cut at the end of the last school year. I have taught ESL before in a different district and am trying very hard to be positive in the light of all the changes that have happened here.

    Your comments today on “the Shadow Mission” really struck home with me. I will use this information to help me stay on track as the school year gets going. Thank you.

  23. Karen says

    Thanks for the reminder and a great way to distinguish if it’s a shadow mission or my real mission! I often wonder if I am doing things to prove my worth especially when I take on extra responsibilities in addition to my work. Right now I have 6 part-time jobs, but I really enjoy all of them even though I am tired on days when I work 2, 3 or 4 of them which makes it a long and tiring day. I guess you could say I sometimes feel exhilaratingly exhausted?

  24. Stephanie O. says

    I had never heard of a “Shadow Mission” before, but I believe it’s very true…those sneaky little things that pull me away from what I should be doing instead of staying on the path I want to be on. Really made me think, and now I’ll try to notice when one is at work! (Probably much of the time!) :)

  25. Judy says

    After reading this I feel I live at least 90% of my life in the “shadow”…..now that my eyes are opened I need to learn what NOT to do. I really enjoyed this article. Made me stop & think! Seems like a lot of our “good works” are just that; good works but not necessarily our true mission in life.

  26. Denise says

    Those sneeky shadows! I have fallen into many of them but after reading todays’ post, I’ll be more aware of them! Thanks. ♥

  27. says

    Recently I had to say,”no,I can not do this any longer!” to a “mission” because my nerves just couldn’t take anymore..I felt like i was not strong enough to handle it. I felt like such a failure as a woman,as God’s daughter.I felt as if i did not have enough faith in God…Reading this I realize now that had it been a true mission from God he would have given me all the strength I needed and I would never have grown weary,frazzled,frustrated, and as nerve wrecked as I had become with this particular “mission”. I have never heard of a shadow mission–in fact,the thought of something such as that never even crossed my mind. Although it should have because the devil can find a way to “sneaky-snake” into anything we do for our Lord. Holley, I want to thank you not only for bringing me this new info, but also for reminding me how quickly the devil can sneak in and detour us from our real missions!! All the while making us feel weak,insignificant,ashamed,etc….those are emotions that God clearly does not bring us when we are doing his work and I should have been able to see that. Somehow the devil got me this time–but thanks to your blog I was reminded of our Father’s intentions and expectations of our lives! Thank you SO SO SO SO much Holley! God bless you and your family for all you do for the rest of us–for helping us all “wake-up”, stay strong, and become closer to God!!

  28. says

    Thanks, for your thoughts on “Shadow Mission,” I’m pretty sure I have been on one for the last six years and it’s called Real Estate Resales. It is a tough business, I put alot into helping my clients & colleges, just to feel totally drained and uncompensated, most times. Here’s my dilema -I’ve just gotten busier and feel like there may be some financial benefit to hanging in there. However, I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care about the $$$ only my “flesh” does. I have put so much energy into to it – my own ego/stubborness won’t let go. Please, pray for me to let go and give God the opportunity to show me my true “Mission.”

  29. Sandra says

    How important to recognize this – and the sooner the better! You are so right – not only a time stealer, but a distraction from your true mission/focus – as well as robber of your energy, enthusiasm, and fulfillment! Thank you!

  30. Diana says

    I have been trying to earn love all my life by wrapping myself around “their” idea of who I should be and what I should say, think and do. I am just now at 65 years of age realizing that I am loved – just for myself. It’s never too late to get on track!

    • Kristy Lynn says

      You are loved just as you are Diana by our awesome Heavenly Papa!! Glad you are seeing His truth in your life. He is going to bless you abundantly for walking faithfully with Him!

  31. Elluz says

    Wow! Thank you! I need to check a few things to see if they are shadow missions in my life. I find it hard to tell though…maybe there are persons that make the feeling of the shoe that doesn’t fit…but not quite the mission? I will continue checking! God bless you!

  32. Tiffany O. says

    Started school today….speaking positive about this semester and knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me :)

  33. Aubrey R says

    This is such an interesting thought! I hadn’t thought about shadow missions, or that I could be off track in such a small way that’s causing such big negative results. So true.

  34. susan says

    i have never heard the term “shadow mission” in my life….and yet, it has been a part of my life…i am so grateful for your insight holly…this is a post i will read over a few times and i will be on my guard to recognize my shadow mission when i come upon it….will be sharing this with friends…what a good discussion group we could have on your writing – keep it up!

  35. says

    Oh.my.word, Holley! I have goosebumps… This message has been popping up for me ALL OVER! I guess I better listen:) Would you pray I can discern what my shadow mission is? Thanks you!

  36. Shawn Bensley says

    Would love the daily calendar. I remember a time in my life when we were shorthanded at the church I was going to. I was so busy doing and not growing closer to God. I am so grateful that God showed me this and now I am spending more time with Him and not more time doing.

  37. Debbi says

    I love your insights. It always speaks to my heart right where I am! After reading this I can think of something that has become my shadow mission but now want God to direct me to my Real Mission!

  38. jane says

    This fits me so well. Too often I do things that are nice but don’t fit or make me feel right. I pray that I will be able to identify my shadow mission more quickly more often so I can get back on track easily.

  39. Afra says

    Many thanks for letting me know that I have been living my shadow mission for years, I have learned that it is easier to please GOD than to please people. Thank you for sharing your spiritual knowledge and comments.

  40. Liz Ashcroft says

    Wow!! This one is so good and so deep I am going to print it out so that I can really think it through and take it in. I guess I am not the only one that agrees with you today Holley! Thank you once again for hitting ‘the spot’!!

  41. Carlita says

    You have NO IDEA how much I needed this today! I just found out that a job I interviewed for (at the college where I already teach part-time) isn’t mine. It was…you guessed it…a SHADOW MISSION of the highest caliber. As hurt as I was, I read this devotional and had a moment of clarity. It cannot be about ME, but about what GOD called me to do.

  42. Rebekah says

    Very insightful and thought-provoking. I have often found myself derrailed by shadow missions and wondered why I no longer felt joy in doing these ‘good’ things. A very clear indication of the shadow mission, for me, is the guilt that comes when I think about how disappointed others will be if I dont do what they want as opposed to what God wants.

  43. Eileen Longfellow says

    Thanks Holley: I needed that. If only I would learn to let God put me on track, every morning, maybe then I wouldn’t run off track so offten and for so long!! Thank God His mercies are new every day.

  44. Lynda says

    So that’s what this nagging feeling of ‘not giving my all’ is really called. Thank you for describing it, calling it and moving us to examine it. I’ll stay in part of the commitment, because the ministry itself is important, but I won’t be the one who thinks they have to ‘everything in my power’ or work without joy to accomplish His purposes. Great thoughts for today.

  45. Maxine says

    Thank you for this inspiring info, as I had never heard of a shadow missions. Sometime think if there is a need it needs to taken care, and the joy is scarce. Will help in decisions to be made when asked to fill this spot or that one.
    Again THANKS!

  46. Mitzi says

    I have been doing some thinking about this very topic of late. I am not involved in ministries due to being a stay-at-home mom of 8, and homeschooling 6 kiddos. I feel so motivated to do “something” outside of my normal duties, though. Sometime back, I felt the Lord say, “Be purposeful with the time you have been given.” So, I felt I needed to get busy and do more. I feel guilty that I’m not doing enough most times, although I have a large family and many duties just as a wife and mother. There are so many “things” I would love to be doing in addition to serving my family.

    Anyway, I have been asking the Lord to show me what I can do for Him EACH DAY, instead of a long-term missions project, or getting involved with something that requires a lengthy commitment of time and energy.

    A few days ago, I took my cats to be neutered. There was a long line to register and the man in front of me was obviously stressed. He had a big cage with no dog in it. He left the dog in his car because the dog was too unruly to wait in line with all the other animals and owners. The man was given a registration form, but had no pen. He didn’t know what he was supposed to fill out on the form. I gave him a pen and helped him fill out his form, as I have been through this process before. When it was his turn to go in the building, I held the door for him while he brought in his nervous dog. It was all my pleasure to help him and make his experience easier. I ENJOYED being helpful.

    I was not expecting any thanks because it was truly my pleasure helping him. But in a quiet moment he turned to me and humbly said, “For what it’s worth, thank you for your encouragement today. It has helped relieve some of my stress.”

    That comment warmed my heart. It was totally unexpected, but blessed me. I was not trying to win his favor or looking for a pat on the back. I was just being me, using who I am to help someone. It hit me that sometimes I don’t have to work hard to do God’s work. It can be as easy as being kind to someone and just being myself. No shadow mission here. Just offering the love of Christ to someone in tangible ways.

    In that moment, I felt affirmed that I had done something good for God for the day, and didn’t even have to plan it, fret over it, or stress about it. I think this is the heart of what Holley has shared with us in her lesson for today. Thank you, Holley!

    • Jan Bennett says

      Mitzi, thank you for sharing this beautiful example of being on a mission from God. It turns out to be just sharing God’s love with other people. I say “just” but it is no small thing. It’s huge. It’s the greatest commandment! God has blessed me through your example. Hugs!

    • Kristy Lynn says

      Mitzi I believe that you are fulfilling the mission God has set before you in homeschooling your children. Our first and foremost ministry is to our children! So be blessed in knowing that you are making a difference everyday for God in raising up your children in the ways of the Lord. I am glad that you see how God can also use you in little ways because that is being an example to Christ. I pray that God continues to show you that you are being obedient to His will for your life and know that we often have seasons of ministry and that as your children get older I am sure God will open up the right doors of ministry for you. Be patient and still in His presence now knowing that you are standing in His will! May God pour out abundant blessings on your family!
      Love in Him, Kristy Lynn

  47. Jan Bennett says

    I’m so thankful for how God is using you! And thank you for bringing up this topic. You really gave easily understandable words to a concept that I hadn’t given a whole lot of thought to before. It’s opened my eyes to take a fresh look at many of the things I do. Do I do it because I’m supposed to? Because it would make people upset if I didn’t do it? Sometimes I end up feeling guilty because I don’t “fit” with most other people’s missions. But it’s where I feel a strong callling. I feel in danger of being thrown out like an old hymnal. Must I really be totally contemporary? Such good food for thought! Thank you!

  48. Nancy Dickerson says

    I would just like to wake up and know that I have something that needs me today. Sometimes I wonder if being a wife was all I ever really was now that I no longer fill that position. And widow doesn’t really say anything, either. Grandmother is so seasonal; they don’t need me much. But is it all about NEED anyway? Why do I feel as if I need to be DOING something? Should I be actively looking for volunteer situations? What about the days that I feel so hopeless? Would that rub off on others? I seem to have more questions than comments, but thank you, Holley, for pointing out that this life is not all about the ‘me’ that needs a pat on the head for something.

  49. says

    As I enter a new semester of college today, this is just what I needed to hear. It takes prayer and discernment to know where God wants me…especially when there are so many good options. :) thanks!

  50. Marlo says

    This is so timely. I am going to print this and keep it posted above my desk. I do many good things but sometimes find the enemy of the best is the good. I’ve been trying to decide what to keep and what to let go. I love the concept of shadow missions and it makes it easier to decide what has been hard to decide, especially when trying to look at it from too many angles. THANK YOU SO MUCH! I love reading your thoughts, so I appreciate the chance to win a calendar, too. :)

  51. Jan Lubbers says

    Thanks Holly! I really appreciated hearing about a shadow mission. I’m thinking very carefully this afternoon about the things that I’m envolved in. Thanks for sharing what God asks you to. I am always eager to read what you write about and praise God for you today!

  52. Dana Wright says

    Thank you so much Holly!! This is exactly what I needed today. Although I’m still not 100% sure what my shadow mission is, I have a good idea about it. I really need God’s direction as I start into another busy year with my 2 jobs… I know that the jobs are both my mission in some way, but I am just coming off of a stress leave from work & I think my biggest problem is that I have an issue saying “no” to people because I am a people pleaser & while I don’t need to hear the praise, I burn myself out trying to please others instead of pleasing myself & my family & then God because I am too tired. It’s a good reminder for me to continue to pray for where God wants me to be & listen carefully to what He has to say to me.
    God Bless 😀

  53. Kristy Lynn says

    Thank you Holley for showing us that sometimes we allow ourselves to chase after shadow missions when God wants us to stay focused on His will and plan for our lives! I am at a crossroad in my life and know that I need to diligently seek which direction God is wanting me to go. This post is the perfect reminder to seek out His best instead of getting caught up in just what’s good but not necessarily beneficial for my life and walk! Blessings to you :)

    • Mae says

      I am also at a crossroads! I just spent time renewing my relationship with my son!
      A mission field God sent me on! What a blessing! I’d like to stay – he is married and now
      I feel God has said I must move on. I’m about to interview for a great job and I need to know
      Is this a Shadow mission…or Is it about finding my place, getting re settled now in retirement age, is it a new mission field and have added income I suppose I feel that I’m not suppose to ask for more God sized dreams! I want to make sure I’m listening to His whisper! I’m dependent on His words. I need to know now each step is for His purpose
      and not $ and not atta gramma you go girl. Or what if I don’t find another job to supplement my income? So this post Holley is so timely!
      I was so sure and confident .. I now am aware of the reality of shadow missions!
      I needed this right tonight as I leave on the train tomorrow head back home for an interview.. The mission must be clear! Pray for me to continue to seek His mission,
      Not just mine. Mae

  54. says

    Holley, how do you find what makes you energized? Your dream? What if you’re still waiting?
    I mean, I think I found my dream, but I’m not sure.

  55. aimee says

    Interesting about the shadow mission. I like your list of how we might be slipping into the shadow mission. It’s good to clarify and I understand it better. Thank you! This is tricky but at the end it’s good to remember that when we do it right then it glorifies God. Also, I enjoyed listening to the blogtalkradio program. You and Stephanie are holy women and doing a great work. I love the part about “Move when the cloud moves” when you compare that for your business goals yet it’s also a daily obedient with how God wants to direct in our life which His way is the best way. Hope all the best to you and Stephanie! :)

  56. Christy says

    I am a new reader to your blog and your words have been such a breath of fresh air into my life. Thank you for letting God use you by serving us!

  57. Nancy says

    Holley – I love how you explain things to us; it makes it so much easier to understand. I never heard of ‘your shadow mission’ before however I’m glad I know now so I can be aware of it. I need God’s help to get me un-stuck in some areas of my life and redirect my steps. I’m waiting on and trusting God to show me the way. This was perfect for me today and the perpetual calendar would be a great reminder. Blessings, Nancy

  58. Terri says

    I have been aware of this for years but called it the good but not the best… so I always searched for the best… this is hard as the good always stands nearby screaming its head off! LOL! the best is lady like and stands by, well, like a lady, which is why I can always find her instantly these days! Amen!!

  59. says

    I’ve never really thought about there being “shadow missions” in my life. I do believe that I’m called to certain things, but I also believe that the timing can be off. God can say, “yes, I have this for you, but no, now isn’t the right time or the season.” And then He asks me to wait, to be patient, and to live with the mission He’s given me to do today.
    If those other things aren’t right, then perhaps they are shadow missions, for this time in my life at least.

  60. Brenda says

    thank you for these affirming words. as a ministry wife, i believe i have lived out my role according to how i thought others expected me to or wanted me to. i did this with everything i had though, and in a way that i thought was honoring to God, and what i thought He wanted my life to be. lately though, i have felt unsettled. i have wondered if somehow i haven’t obeyed His calling for my life. why have i been feeling so empty? i realize that everything i have been doing for so long has been pouring out, but not taking anything in. also, i haven’t been using any of the creative abilities/talents that God has given to me that make me who i am. i am asking myself why. have i wasted all this time? have i been living in a “shadow mission?” after a lot of thought and prayer in this very area, i have recently started to use my interests of writing and photography to encourage others by starting a small business at home. i create greeting cards, as well as a number of other small gift items. i feel God has truly led the way in this, and i have felt tremendous JOY in my life! it has already been an amazing journey :)

  61. Beth Horvath says

    Yes, it is very hard to do things purely out of love, not expecting any accolades. I guess that is what makes us human. However, when a third party tries to interfere with things done out of love for needy parties, then my dander is really on end. Sorry for the cat metaphor, but I’m a feline lover. GOD IS LOVE, as John says, and as a Christian, if one can do this with grace and keep that message forefront in their service, I think the right thing is being done.

  62. kat says

    What a wonderful way to measure and explain “false missions”! So true! I wonder how many shadow missions I’ve been on through my life! And now when I’m presented with a mission that sounds like it’s just for me but am unsure if it’s just “a good thing” I will ask myself – am I considering this because it will bring God the glory, or because people will think well of me. Thank you so much!

  63. Marion says

    Now that IS good to know. I have found myself in these “shadow missions” several times. I thought I had just gotten the wrong signal to go ahead. It is very painful to have to admit to a mistake, but even worse to have to think I was totally off track. I am going to remember this lesson, I hope, for the next time I feel the mission just isn’t going right.

  64. JJ says

    Today’s message really hit home – thanks so much – not only for today’s insight but for all you continue to provide – you are appreciated!

  65. Beverly Jones-Durr says

    So happy to have read this. I think I am easily distracted by shadow missions and now I understand why. With the steps you have provided and. Little help from’y Sistahs I will do my best to avoid the shadows. Thank you Holly!

  66. Pat Ball says

    Interesting, because yes there is a difference in the result and sometimes you just think it is just you because selfish or tired or whatever label you want to put on it, and then you make yourself do it because it is what you think you should do. Thanks for the insight.

  67. Delores says

    God, has layed on Mine and My Husband Heart, to share the Gospel with those that don’t know Him. We host a Discipilship Group in Our Home everyThursday night, We tell Our Story Before we knew God!,after We accepted Him into Our Hearts, and Now, and encourage others to tell their story. We have scripture Verses People learn and tell and then We go through them with everyone and talk about what the verse means to Us. Our Church started this a few months ago and several Groups were formed. I cannot express the Joy this has done for all of Us,sharing the message through scripture to those that do not know Him.

    • Delores says

      I think, I read this wrong, I think This is a Postive Mission. SorryBut thank You for reminding Me how the devil can tempt Us.

  68. Cindy says

    Shadow missions have been “haunting” me all my life. I have volunteered for everything to help, in almost anyway, since I was a little girl. I’m in my 50’s now. It is hard to stay focused. God is in control and I don’t have to be in control of anything or anyone. I don’t have to seek approval by volunteering for everything that comes along. God is enough. He is the one that should receive Glory, Honor, and Praise!

  69. Sandy. says

    Just Listening.
    Matthew 10:29
    Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
    Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
    outside your Father’s care.

  70. says

    Thank-you so much for sharing! I had never before heard of this concept of a shadow mission but it’s truth rang true for me. I especially understand how you described how you try to find healing by being needed by others. A common pitfall for myself, but the other way around; if no one seems to need me I perceive it to be a value of my self-worth (that there is none). I needed to hear this message of hope!

  71. Susan says

    Accorcing to your definition of a Shadow Mission, practically everything I do is a shadow mission and I have no clue what my true mission is.

  72. Cindy Phillips says

    Thank you Holly. I have never thought of this in this way. This will make an excellent devotion as we start a new MOPS year. Thank you for helping us to stay on the “right track”.

  73. Jacquie says

    Living in the shadows and not following the true mission God has given me has robbed me of the joy I once experienced. Thanks for shedding light on this for me!

  74. Sandy says

    Hi Holley,
    Shadow Mission is definitely a new concept for me. Not sure if one of my volunteer “jobs,” is a shadow mission or if I just need to pray for a more positive attitude. I’ll have to prayfully discern if God is still calling me to do His work in this way. Very thought provoking!

    Shalom, Sandy

  75. Holley says

    Hey Sisters! Thanks so much for sharing your hearts and thoughts here. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. We will keep figuring it out together!

    Some of you asked about ways to find your true mission. One simple one is to download the interactive tools {free} that are the Books & More section of the site. I think it also helps to ask wise people in your life who know you well for feedback. It’s hard to see it ourselves sometimes. If that sounds scary, we can even talk about finding your mission together {more info about that on the e-coaching page}.

    I think what matters most is having an open heart–which I’m certain you do. When that’s true, God has a way of showing us what we need to see in His perfect timing.

    Love y’all and thanks again for all you shared!

  76. Debbie Trombley says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have a personality that loves possibilities….you can imagine how shadows trap and zap my focus and distract me from delighting in the “main thing”! I so needed this word today as I consider where, really, is the center focus on the target. Now, because of your insight, I have the “aha!” and will know how to hold myself accountable and allow my mentor to be asking the the tough question: “Are you in the shadow or the center of His will?” Bless you!

  77. Esther says

    This is a very insightful column today. It alerts all of us to the fact that we often don’t know what is motivating us. Our own insecurities and hurts are always lurking in the background influencing us without our knowledge, until those insecurities and hurts are acknowledged, shared with a friend or professional, confessed to God, and healed gradually through the years by loving friends, God, and by forgiving ourselves or the ones who perpetrated the painful actions on us. It takes courage to Know Thyself. Thank you.

  78. Beth says

    Wow! I needed to hear that. I get sucked into my shadow mission so easily as a teacher. Thank you for reminding me to be on guard to what God has actually called me to.

  79. Sally says

    Thank you for this, it’s such a wonderful reminder and timely for me. I am praying about and considering several new ways to serve in ministry and I needed to hear this today.

  80. Denise D says

    Thank you so much! I really enjoy reading your inspirational messages, I look forward to them. God bless you, you are a blessing to so many

  81. Renee Orchard says

    Thankyou so much holley, this was a huge answer to prayer for things I have been struggling with for the past 3 years so thankyou thankyou thankyou for your wonderful words of wisdom.

  82. Karen says

    Holly I so much enjoy reading your Heart to Heart emails. It seems like the day I read, which is usually the day you send it, I feel like God is speaking directly to me. I look forward to them. You have no idea how much they encourage me. I will be watching for my shadow mission, the enemy, and be looking for the LIGHT. I very much prefer to be in the Light instead of in the darkness. May God continue to bless you; so you can continue to bless others. Karen

  83. Abby says

    I have been reading “God’s Heart for You” as an ebook and I’m finding it super wonderful…just like your blog! You are a great Christian woman! God bless you :)

  84. says

    Love you Holley….you have helped an “older” ministry wife….feel there is still more to come after 38 yrs in the pastorate! Thank you deeply!

  85. says

    Such as this web-site your web site is 1 of my new most popular.I similar to this information shown and it has offered me some sort of ideas to possess success for some cause, so keep up the excellent work!

  86. says

    Wow, you are scary… in a good way! :) I have been thinking about what is next for me in my journey with God and there are two projects that I really like but after reading this I think one may be a shadow mission :-) Good points to ponder upon. Thank you for your words.

  87. Justine says

    I can completely relate to this. actually right this very minute. I was praying to God a few moments ago and I remembered I hadn’t read your blog today. I pulled up your blog on my phone and wow. there it was. a reminder that there are so many distractions in life that can move us in the opposite direction of God’s plan. and all of the shadow mission descriptions completely identify what I’m going through. thanks holly.

  88. melissa says

    Well doesn’t this message just hit a homerun!! Now I finally have a name for it!! Shadow Mission describes perfectly how I feel about my life journey with God…sometimes I (mistakenly) think it’s all about me…but that is just the Shadow Mission creeping up on me!! Thanks,Holly!! Once again you put a name to a feeling!

  89. Lisa says

    How can you tell if it is a shadow mission or negative attitude? I have noticed if I” keep my eyes on Jesus and not look away and drown” it keeps my heart and attitude in line. Ttherefore, all of the other frustrating distractions are less of the focus.

  90. Pam says

    I just want to say thank you, you have helped me find a name for what was really my shadow mission. I have more clarity now, and will be laying down what was really MY mission to seek out what the Lord would really have me doing. Pam

  91. Denise Lisle says

    Holley, I have never heard about a shadow mission before but it makes so much sense! I have been working and working at things that are pleasing to God and I could not understand why I felt so tired, frustrated and ineffective; I know God has given me this ‘gift’ for children but for the past couple of years I have been very ineffective, tired… God has changed my focus and what I was once good at is something I now have to leave, but instead of feeling empty I understand that He has another gift that He is ready for me to use for Him (Now I just have to find out exactly what it is!)

  92. Marci says

    THANK YOU! I heard John Ortberg share about Shadow Missions several years ago, but had completely forgotten about it. I can’t even tell you how timely this message is for me right now. I just walked in the door from a workshop, learning more about something that I believe God is calling me to. And yet, I’m not sure. This message helps me to look at the ministry with fresh eyes/ears as I pray about moving forward. Thank you for sharing.

  93. deedee says

    Wow, this message of Shadow Missions comes as I have been re-examing the ‘rocks in my wagon’ to see which God placed there and which I placed there for Him. Oddly enough a statement surfaced yesterday directed to where the sense of joy was in one of the ministries that I believe He has placed in my wagon. I was examining the ‘joy’ in this mission and now after reading this posting I understand this ministry (rock) was truly placed by Him. Thank you for obeying Him in writing this posting. Blessings.

  94. nancy says

    Interesting thoughts… God put an older couple into my life several years ago. They recently moved, and are really struggling with the changes, so have been “leaning” on me for help. A couple of weeks ago I was polite and nice and helpful, but inside I was frustrated as can be–the assistance did NOT come from a pure and loving heart and I was exhausted… shadow mission or just bad attitude??? I’m not sure. The past couple of times that they have needed assistance, I have been able to give them my time with grace flowing from a changed heart. So is this now a “real” mission? Has it been a God-assigned task all along? I’ll have to ponder a while on that. God has definitely used this couple to grow me and give me patience and grace…

  95. Susan G. says

    Yikes! I will watch for my shadow mission…we can never get too old to learn something new! :)
    Thanks for the opportunity to win this awesome calendar.
    Thanks for your encouraging words! I get excited each time I see your email in my inbox – because I know it’s always going to be something good!
    Susan G.

  96. Jaki says

    It’s so easy to get derailed …even 10 degrees of doing what you’re not called to do can steal precious time away from your true mission. thanks Holley.

  97. Anouchka says

    Dear Holley, thank you again!! for the reminder that we are called to serve God and others through Him, not to be focused on validating ourselves because He is our validation!! Thank you for so helpfully pointing out how to recognise a “shadow mission” – I’ve been on them several times and never been able to really put a finger on what wasn’t right about that picture, now I’ll know!! God bless you and all who read this.
    xxxx Anouchka

  98. laurie says

    often times we are rewarded for being able to multitask.
    Yet, we may get little accomplished although we look like we are very busy.
    Beware of the seduction of doing too much to please man.
    True rest comes with total trust.
    Put your life in HANDS that are capable of holding it all together.

  99. Sarah says

    It is interesting that this came up today. I was in a Bible Study last night that talked about this same thing….wonder what I need to learn? Maybe i think I know.

  100. Florence says

    Shadow Ministry is a new concept to me – but one I definitely will thinking about….& it’s SO timely!! I have been struggling a lot lately & seeking the Lord about a couple areas in my ministry! This helps to clarify it for me! Thanks so much for your ministry! God bless.

  101. Hope says

    All those years teaching Sunday School and doing so many things at church that I did because I could and was asked to do them. There was a time when I enjoyed doing them but then the day arrived when I realized I was burned out and was not growing or being fed. Now it’s been a year and a half since I’ve been to church. The things that burned me out were shadow missions. The things that I enjoyed were my true mission. Wow. Thanks for this wonderful insight!

  102. Sal Williams says

    Dear Holley,
    thanks SO much for this post! Reading through your mail opened my ‘eyes’ to the reality as to why (even today) I was grumbling about something and not enjoying it…a shadow mission indeed….doing stuff to please others and not seeking God in it and not feeling energized as I should! Bless you. I see how easy it is to get side tracked!

    May His Spirit help us all to be led by Him.

  103. Carol says

    I can tell the things that are God’s mission because they give me joy, but also they are the things that people notice too and encourage me with their comments. It’s a confirmation that “yes” I am doing the right thing!

  104. Dodo says

    If John Ortberg were right in saying that a shadow mission is a derailed authentic mission, not 180 degrees, but just 10 degrees off track, then it wouldn’t be that bad! Because then people pursuing a shadow mission would still be 170 degrees on track, initially! Similarly, I think it was Stephen Covey who made use of the analogy of a plane flying on-course to its destination only 90+% most of the time based, and needing to correct itself again and again using its flight plan.

    Isn’t this the reality of life, the very condition of humanity, its woundedness and its imperfection? Different people will have different responses to their being human.

    What is important is knowing and accomplishing the true mission, being certain of and reaching one’s destination. The ‘how’ of accomplishing the mission or getting to the destination may take different forms, including being misled by the shadow mission, no matter how frequently or extensively. For what really matters most is getting back on track AGAIN AND AGAIN, as you very well said. And it takes the entire lifetime to do it.

  105. Meredith Waldron says

    Dear one,
    You are such a youngster! I have high heels older than you! That being said, I don’t think there’s any doubt that God is using you is a wonderful way! There’s no way that you’ve had enough time to accumulate the wisdom you have!
    God bless you,

  106. Cindy Fox says

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I hadn’t heard of “Shadow Mission.” It is interesting, as are the pointers to recognizing a “shadow mission.” Sounds like a “shadow mission” distracts one from the real mission. May God give us all discernment so we know what is of Him and what is not. God bless you!

  107. says

    I feel like because of my financial circumstances right now, I’m feeling guilted/forced to enter into a shadow mission in order to “provide” for myself…

    And, I like to “look good” to other busybody Christians (darn them for the busybodiedness & my fear of man that lets it effect me!), because, God-forbid, they (that ever-present, tongue-clucking jury of “they”) should think that I’m “not doing anything.”


    I am blessed by friends like you who keep me honest.

    And that’s been the theme, lately, of my readings…being REAL with God. My coworker, (a very new Believer), was observing to me yesterday that it seems Christians can be so weird in trying to do/say all these things we think we’re supposed to do/say & never really being honest & real & HUMAN with God & each other…!


    The thing is, I LOVE my present job! I feel “in the zone” when I’m there…both to coworkers & clients on the phone. And it’s “embarrassing,” because it’s not a brag-worthy job in the Christian community & thus, “they” think I’m “wasting my life/time.” So I appreciate your wisdom, prayers & friendship!
    love you!!!

  108. olu yerokun says

    this helps to put things in perspective for me., giving me awareness of my motives in reaching out to others. I really likes this !

  109. IDB says

    This was a timely message.

    God’s mission, and thus what ours should be, has not changed…”Seek ye 1st the KINGDOM of God, and all these (other) things shall be added…

    God has a plan for us all…His plan is the best plan, Jer 29:11….We’ll find our mission and plan when, when we seek HIM 1st…

    Gods Grace & Mercy 2 Us all!


    Matthew 6:33 KJV
    But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

  110. Stephany Cast says

    Hi Holley,

    I’ve never heard of a shadow mission, reading this blog entry made me analyze and ask what is me shadow mission? Makes you go deeper and analyze your heart.

    Thank you,

  111. says

    Thank you for this timely message. The shadow mission being only 10 degrees off track brought just the insight I needed in my life. I was being confused by someone dear to my heart who is involved with a huge shadow mission. It was confusing because some how it seemed right. Until I read that a shadow mission is only 10 degrees off track. What an answer to prayer and an opening for a more effective prayer. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    It also spoke clearly to my life and how to recognize he effects of a shadow mission.
    Bless you for reaching out!

  112. says

    Nearing the end of a busy two weeks, I am feeling the “re-” (again) part of “tired”, which “re”minds me that God’s love and grace can fill without exhaustion; there’s always room for more in me. Since God first appeared on earth in the form of His son Jesus, God has become indwelling in each of us, at the transition from the Old Testament to the New.
    I have been reading my RSV Bible (presented to me in 1965) from the beginning with the aid of Ray C. Stedman’s “Adventuring Through the Bible” and other writings. (Joseph Heller’s “God Knows” has helped my understanding, too.)
    In serving various ministries (and painting) at church, and helping with last weekend’s open house at our local airport, I did not seek recognition (as is my habit), but it comes, and I find it, well, I don’t know the words exactly: overwhelming, a bit uncomfortable?
    Dad gave me the guidance in his words, “Always try to leave a place in better shape than you found it.”


  113. Vicky Blackwell says

    I have started a women’s group with my Sunday School class & I thought it was my true mission…and still do I guess…BUT, there is one person who has me feeling so frustrated & ready to give up. However, I KNOW that I am doing this for God and hope to not be drawn to other related events that are my “shadow mission”. Thanks so much for clearing that up for me. I have never heard that term before!

  114. says

    So, I may have been in shadow missions more often than not and I’m almost 67 years old! I never thought of it but I can see the truth in what you say. God bless you.

  115. Jeannie says

    Thank you so much for the shadow mission. I am currently in the process of starting a group for mothers that have suffered a miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant loss. This was so timely to keep me on the right path while on his mission and avoid the shadow mission.
    Thanks so much.

  116. Sherrie says

    This really made me think…I can easily drift into a shadow mission when something “needs” to be done and there is “no one” to do it. Oftentimes, we allow others to talk us into doing something that God had not called us to do.

  117. Sue Colburn says

    Oh. My. Goodness. (Lightbulb!)
    Now I know why I have felt so empty, so exhausted, so frustrated. I didn’t dream there was such a thing as a ‘shadow mission’, and that has to be what has me derailed.
    If you figure out why people create a ‘shadow’ for you, let me know. I wonder if ‘perfectionistic’ and ‘needy’ people are the most common targets?
    I am praying that God will lead me into my mission. I need a ‘mission statement’, and I am praying about that, too!
    Bless you, Holley. I like you, too!

  118. www.quietambitions.wordpress.com says

    I hadn’t heard this term before, but I’ve certainly experienced it! This hit SO close to home that I’m sharing the link on my new blog over the weekend. Thanks for writing! Though you don’t know me, you’ve encouraged me in taking some of my new steps into the blogging world.
    Grace & Peace!

  119. Paula Barton says

    It seems to me that the motivation behind the action can determine if the mission is shadow or not. Who are we really doing this activity for?

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  124. says

    Holley, I recently bought a couple of your books on Amazon. You are SO on target with your warnings about a “shadow mission” that I’m going to refer to this blog post and link to your books in Amazon for my students in Judson University’s Masters of Organizational Leadership program. I’m teaching an online class in Ethical Leadership, and the topic of a shadow mission is included. Thank you for spreading the word. So many well-meaning Christians get sidetracked from their true purpose, it’s sad. Keep up the great work. I enjoy your writings.

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  126. says

    What an eye opener……I think I am currently on a shadow mission!! It’s something I love doing but seasons are changing and I need to adapt but I am not. It’s hard to let go of that thing but this post has shed a lot of light on what I am in right now. I will meditate on this more. Thanks for sharing. God bless you friend…..



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