Saturday, March 13, 2010

Testing My Ministry Motivation

Been pondering this short snippet of a quote by Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
"This shall be an infallible test to you concerning anyone’s ministry. If it is man-praising, and man-honoring, it is not of God."
One of those statements that it's really easy to apply to others, isn't it? No problem looking at ministers and ministries, large and small, and pointing out just how man-centered they seem to be. Plenty of that kind of evangelical-in-name-only kind of stuff going on wherever one looks today. And to be fair (to all of us), that kind of evaluation of ministers and ministries is right an necessary. It's part and parcel of contending for the faith. As those who have received and been entrusted with the eternal truths of the gospel of Christ, to do less would be failing to fulfill our duty and calling.

But, on the other hand, what about me? This question that the prince of preachers poses goes to the heart of motivation in ministry.Why do I do what I do when it comes to my personal Christian ministry? I believe I've been gifted and called to be a teacher of God's word, a belief that has been confirmed many times over the years. I get great joy and personal reward in engaging in this ministry, in a variety of contexts. The most personally rewarding experience for me in the ministry of the word is when I see someone grasp a Biblical truth and the implications of that truth, and respond accordingly. You know, the so-called "aha moment", the light bulb going on, that sort of stuff. That's one thing that always stokes my fire for continuing to teach and disciple Biblically.

But along with that often comes some sort of response along the lines of "Wow, you are such a great teacher." Or "I really love your classes, I get so much out of them." Or some other adulatory utterance directed toward me. Now, this is not an everyday occurrence, for sure. I'm probably overstating the case even now. But it does happen. And the answer to the question Spurgeon poses come back to: is this what motivates me to teach the Bible? Is my motivation, at its root, sourced in this affirmation of those whom I minister to? Or is it based in faithfulness to The One whose name I minister in? Is it for the praise of men, or is it for the pleasing of my Lord?

But the toughest part of this statement is Spurgeon's conclusion. For if my motivation, my focus, my whole reason for doing what I do comes back to seeking praise and honor for me rather than for Him, then the so-called ministry I engage in is mine alone, and devoid of any power or blessing from God. And if that's the case, then it's really not a "ministry" at all, is it? Ministry is serving Christ's people for His glory, not for mine.

This is something that I have to constantly pay attention to. And I'm sure most of us engaged in any kind of service to Christ do too. Our hearts are so easily deceived, and our need for affirmation so strong. I need to continually check my motives, and be seeking my affirmation not from any man or woman, but from the God Man, and only Him. Faithfulness demands it.

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