When you start a project or task its easy to get motivated. New things are exciting and carry a sense of momentum. But we don’t just go and do new things… we do things that we believe in… we just find it easier to do the new ones!
So how do you keep plugging away at the project or task when it’s no longer new?
Part of the answer is to re-consider the motivation that made that task exciting in the first place. Ask yourself (or your team), “What were you excited about this project before you got started? What were you hoping it would do?”
The goal or purpose of the project shouldn’t have changed since then. And that means the motivation to reach that goal shouldn’t have changed either.
So dig into the love that sparked the task, and keep working to use that motivation to fuel the task.
(The recent Nexus2015 Conference “A cross shaped ministry” thought through the implications the cross has on how we think about gospel work in our churches. These are some of my personal reflections.)
1. The cross kills our wrong ministry motivations
We don’t do ministry to try to “pay back God”. We don’t do ministry to “stay in God’s good books”. We don’t do ministry because we’re afraid God will be angry with us if we don’t.
The cross of Christ, in our place, purchasing forgiveness and freedom from judgement saves us from all these errors. We are wise to go back to the cross and there remember it is all done, our heavily Father is pleased with us in Christ.
2. The cross kills our wrong worldly motivations
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal 6:14
Our union with Jesus, is a union with him in his death and resurrection. So much so that Paul says his relationship with the world is viewed through the lens of being crucified. I think that means the world sees him as good as dead, and he sees the world as good as dead.
In other words, the cross reminds us that this world is moving towards destruction to make way for a new creation to fit Jesus’ resurrected body and Jesus’ resurrected people.
This should affect our concerns, our desires, our goals for life. It should make us pause when thinking about our hopes and dreams – for they should not be filled with this world’s offerings, but with the next world’s promises. The cross means greed and coveting is even more inappropriate – if that were possible.
More to come…
Christians have an appropriate concern about their motives. We want to do things for the right motivations, and we want our church families to do things for the right motivations.
That’s a good thing. However, we can get caught up in the reasoning behind the right reasons. Are the reasons too guilt motivated? Are the reasons theologicaly sound? Are the reasons reasonable for where I’m at.
So, rather than doing Christian things for the right reasons, a better way to approach it might be to do things for the right person. Yes… Jesus.
When you consider who Jesus is, your forgiver, your brother, your master, your God… It motivates us relationally. We do things for him who died and lives for us.
Well yes, it really depends on what you mean by having a “poor attitude”.
But extremes aside, if someone’s attitude is just “off” or “a bit grumpy” about being part of a ministry… what should you do? Tell them to stop serving until their attitude is right? Or, tell them to just righten-up their attitude?
I think there’s two lenses to consider this question… is there a human aspect? Is there a gospel aspect?
It could just be that life is all too much at the moment, and they’re stuffed. They might just be tired. That is, they might have a good gospel attitude (if you asked them) but they’re just not aware of how they are responding or how they’re appearing and speaking to other people. That means you’re in a position to offer wise counsel about how to plan to serve (avoid late night tv the night before, etc.) and how to smile and talk to people while they’re serving. You’re helping them do what they already think is a good thing to do… just better… without the apparent chip on their shoulder.
But, it could be that they don’t want to serve Jesus and his people, or they feel like that role is beneath them. They might think they shouldn’t really have to serve and that Christian service should be like the self-serve check-outs at the shops… sure you have to try a bit hard, but there’s certain perks to it?!? They might not think their life is Jesus’ possession.
Even in many of these circumstances, I’d want to suggest they keep serving while you work through it with them.
Because serving isn’t something Christians choose to do… it’s part of our DNA… we follow a servant king. Telling someone to stop serving is like telling a fish to stop swimming because they find the water too warm.
If possible have them keep on swimming, keep on serving and all the while, keep helping them feel the privilege of serving their saviour.
Ministry is a hard game. We’re building relationships with people, as we help them build a relationship with Jesus. Its a big volunteer game too; we invite them to devote themselves to projects and events…
But there’s a wonderful question I was taught during my apprenticeship; Always ask yourself the question; Who do they love? You or Jesus?
As we do ministry, we become close to people, we become friends and team mates. And so when we ask them to help us, they can find it very easy to say “yes” to us – because of the relationship we have with them. And yet, they may have no desire to do those same things for Jesus. They just do it because we’ve asked them to.
Are your keen people doing what they’re doing because they love Jesus, or because they love you?
In some circles competition is shunned and avoided at all costs. And there can be some very good reasons for avoiding competition – especially when dealing with people who have a very competitive nature.
However, not everyone has a competitive nature, and sometimes, a bit of competition helps us as humans to spur one another on. It’s why some people go jogging or swimming in groups… the pull of wanting to keep-up with the others drives you on further.
And Paul leverages a bit of human competition in 2Cor 8…
“But since you excel in everything… see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.”
And he does it about spiritual matters!! I often wonder what being biblically in line with Paul would look like today?
The difference between being in ‘sales’ and being in ‘ministry’ is heartbreak.
See, if I’m trying to sell you something, it’s because I get a commission, or it’s my job – get paid to help you want something (usually want something enough to buy it). If you decide to say “no”, it’s disappointing, and it may even be frustrating. I might have wasted heaps of time on one customer and never make the sale. I may even feel insecure about my ability. But that’s all.
On the other hand, if I’m doing personal follow-up at church, or inviting someone to a series like LIFE, or simply just trying to help someone see the majesty of Christ they should be living for… If they decide to say “no”, I would still experience all those things above (disappointment, frustration, insecure, etc). But, I will also experience heartbreak.
Because Christian ministry is motivated by love, it also has the potential to hurt. A lot. In fact, the more I cultivate love for you (which drives me to say certain things and do certain things) the more I open myself up to be heartbroken when I see you turn away from Jesus, continue in sin, make stupid decisions that will affect your relationship with Jesus and others.
Ministry is an investment of Jesus-inspired-love in people. We invest more than our time, energy, mind… we invest our heart. And so you can’t invest your heart into people without expecting to be heartbroken. When that happens, refill your heart with Jesus’ love and go love some more.
The secular world only cares about motivation; they want motivated people. People with drive and self-persuasion.
But Christians don’t want just motivated people. We want people with specific, godly motivations.
As an example, you could work for something like WorldVision for any number of motivations. They wouldn’t really care what those motivations are – just that you’re motivated.
But just to help do the washing up at church… If you don’t have “responding to Jesus’ love” as part of your motivations, I don’t really want you joining in.
If there are two types of reasons “why” you might do something (see previous post) can you focus on one of those types of “why” too much?
If you focus too heavily on the “functional why” (because we want this result, because we hope this will happen, because this will help that, because they will be able to…), what might happen then? Some might tell you that you’re just a short step from simple pragmatism – doing whatever works – the end justifies the means. That’s a pretty catastrophic conclusion to make. Remember, this isn’t abandoning “whys of purpose”, we’re just talking about having a focus on one over the other.
What is more likely to happen is that you’ll drift into traditionalism. You’ll do what worked once before, and you’ll just keep doing that, because it worked. You’ll be reluctant to alter the methods – methods that really were built on solid theological reasoning and good intentions. But methods that don’t work any more because you’re not willing to re-think the principles.
What about the other way?
If you focus too heavily on the “causal why” (because God is like this and that, because the gospel gives us this heart, because this is our identity in Christ…), what might happen then? Some might say you’ll be out of touch with reality… that you’ll just preach the truth and not care about tailoring it to the people who’re listening. Again, that’s pretty catastrophic. More likely, (if it’s simply an over-focus) you’ll take risks and try things out, without being so hung up about whether they work perfectly or not. You’ll try things out and watch them fail a few times before you land on something that does work.
There’s good reason to lean in that direction, heh?
It’s really important that we separate disagreeing from devaluing. Being disagreed with does not mean that we’re being devalued.
Just because my boss doesn’t agree with me, that doesn’t mean he devalues me. Just because a husband decides against his wife’s advice that doesn’t mean he devalues her. In fact, the Father doesn’t even devalue the divine Son when, after the Son says “take this cup from me”, the father implicitly says “no”.
The issue is that disagreement is something we can see, but devaluing is something we can’t see because it happens inside people’s hearts. We can’t see whether other people are devaluing us or not. Therefore, we should never accuse someone of devaluing us, because there’s no way of proving it. You can ask them, but that’s all you can do.
If they say, “No way!! I totally value you. I just don’t agree with you on this point” then you have to take their word for it. That also means we should attempt to stop feeling devalued because that feeling isn’t based on anything real, we’ve just been disagreed with.
The value of a task is not derived from who can do it, but who it is done for.
Just because only a few people can do a task, doesn’t make it valuable. The preacher’s prep, the musician’s practice, the small group leader’s reading… Those tasks aren’t valuable because you’ve been asked or appointed to a responsibility.
The only thing that makes them valuable is who they are done for.
If they are done well, but not for Jesus, they quickly empty themselves of their value. They might impress for a short time, but they will be burned up in eternity.
All servants should remind themselves that the value of their service lies in who they serve. That is all.
Marriages shouldn’t have secrets. You should never promise that you won’t tell your wife/husband. People who reveal private and personal details to you should know that those details could go to your spouse.
But “could” is the operative word there. I’d be wary of the couple who say they “must” tell each other everything. Couples should only share other people’s private issues if they think it will be really helpful for the person involved to have their spose’s perspective. But, here’s some reasons to not share other people’s private issues with your spouse:
- if you think your spouse won’t find it helpful (e.g. it will seriously damage their opinion of someone else in a way they won’t be able to contain)
- if you think your spouse won’t be able to keep it private themselves
- if you think your spouse just doesn’t need to know and them knowing really isn’t going to help you… why share it at all?
- if you’re concerned you’re tending to gossip (you could say, “I’d like to share it, but I need to consider my motives for a while first.”)
- if you’re concerned your spouse only wants to know because they like gossip (you could say, “I’m happy to tell you, but maybe in a few days, and if you still think you need to know, ask again.”)
- if your spose is under other obligations to deal with information (e.g. they might be required by law or by their work place to report any incidents of a certain nature) you should think hard if your spouse will need to act upon hearing the information – and if you’re happy for that to happen.
It’s not just as simple as “tell your spouse everything”. You could… but not only should you have a good reason, you should also make sure there’s not a good reason to refrain.
Gossip isn’t simply when “other people” talk about you. That’s fine. Rather, gossip is when other people talk about you in damaging ways… when they talk to other people about your intentions, your motives. Or putting it the other way around, gossip is when you talk to someone about how another person is mean/awful/untrustworthy.
You could say those things to their face, and that would be bad enough since you’re attributing motives… you’re assuming to know their heart (which only God can).
What makes gossip worse is that the person you’re talking about isn’t even there. They can’t defend themselves; they have no voice, they are helpless and weak in the face of such an attack.
So defend the weak and those without a voice.
Stop other people gossiping. Ask people to stop when they start saying unkind things about someone not present.
What do you do with the person who wants to pull out of volunteering because they “don’t feel like they’re doing it for the right reasons”.
It’s hard because motives do matter. We want people to do things with good gospel-centred Jesus-honouring motives.
But notice something in that quote… they’re aware of what they’re motives should be. If you asked them something like, “What motives do you think you should have?” they could probably answer you.
So if you know the good motives you should have, and you realise that you don’t have those motives… determine to have different motives. Enter that struggle.
Encourage people to persever in serving Jesus even when they don’t feel like it. Encourage them to set about altering their motives like they would alter any other aspect of sin or struggle with temptation.