LESSON #19: Know why you’re doing it.
We must always check our motivations for serving. When you first begin as a church planter, it’s much easier to talk about pure motivations than it is to actually maintain them. The planter has an opportunity to pass or fail the “trial of motivation” every Sunday morning. Even if the planter claims not to care how many people show up, or that anyone said anything about his sermon afterward, or that he hasn’t seen a “decision for Jesus” for a while…he’s lying. Every gathering is an opportunity to feel good or bad about himself, to boast in what he is doing or in what Jesus has already done.
Attitudes reveal motivations. When a Sunday morning, Bible Study, or similar gathering does not go as expected (“they” don’t show up, “they” don’t respond, “they” don’t sacrifice) you will be tempted to self-pity, self-righteousness, or any number of self-centered attitudes. It becomes about you–a position you can easily justify–because you have sacrificed time, energy, money, love, given everything for “them” and, well, they don’t seem very appreciative of all you’ve done, and certainly not deserving. And very quickly you realize that your motivations are no longer gospel-centered. In fact, it sounds like you’ve replaced Jesus as the center of all things.
All that we do is to be for the glory of God. As image bearers, that is our purpose and privilege. And there is no greater joy though its pursuit requires Spirit-empowered discipline.
- We plant and lead churches for the glory of God, not ours. Jesus is the one that plants, grows, shrinks, and closes churches. Like the farmer, our job is to till the soil, plant seeds, and fulfill our responsibilities as steward of the field. But Jesus is the one that controls the weather, the growth, and the harvest–whether it be feast or famine. And He is glorified in either one.
- We preach the gospel and evangelize for the glory of God–not to “save” people. God is glorified by the proclamation of what He has done, regardless if anyone believes it or not. We share the gospel because it is by His Word that God has decided to save people–but our primary motivation is not the command to do it OR the benefit of salvation. We cannot help but speak with joy about the glories of what Jesus has done.
- We resist sin to pursue the glory of God. We do not resist sin primarily because it is bad for us and those we love. We do not flee from addictions so those we’ve hurt will forgive us. In other words, we don’t resist sin to avoid consequences. We resist sin and pursue God because we want Him above anything else. And that pursuit will in turn bless us and those we love.
- We serve others for the glory of God. We prepare, sacrifice, and love that we might serve others for the glory of God. In essence, we live out the gospel every time we lead a Bible Study, host a small group, serve in a ministry, or even counsel a friend. We do not serve because of how it will benefit us, though we hope we’ll get some sort of “spiritual tingle” out of it. We serve, regardless of who shows up, who thanks, who abuses, who participates, or who even notices because we want to magnify what God has done for us–the gospel.
- We eat and drink for the glory of God. 1Corinthians 10.31 teaches us to glorify God in whatever we do. Whether we’re eating, drinking, working, or acting as a husband, father, wife, mother, or friend. That question is never what will I get out of this situation, person, or moment, rather, it is always how can I glorify most through this situation, to this person, and in this moment.