Motives In Christian Ministry

Motives in Christian Ministry: “A major part of our ministries must be self-examination. We need to see if we and our ambitions are driving our ministries or if God is. We must examine our motives for everything we commit to. As you read the article below I pray that God will prick your heart as He did mine to look deep into what is driving what we do in His name.” – Mike Ratliff.

I have often been challenged in my own heart before the Lord to check my motives in all things regarding serving Christ. Because it’s not only about what I believe and what I do in kingdom service–of paramount important is the question WHY. Why am I doing what I am doing–what are the hidden motives of my heart? Why do I do what I do and why do I say what I say?

The glory of God has been re-emphasized in recent years and rightly so. But now its almost “popular” to talk about God’s glory. It’s becoming an evangelical fad that’s very cool; its “IN” to speak much about God’s glory, reading and quoting Jonathan Edwards or John Piper about the glory of God, the supremacy of Christ, and “it being all about Him.”

These days, it’s “in” to imitate the theology of whoever happens to be the most popular current author, preacher, theologian, or conference speaker. It’s “in” to always attend the Desiring God Bethlehem conference, the Together for the Gospel conference, the True Church conference, the Bentley conference, the Arkansas conference, or the Heartcry Missions conference; it’s the cool thing to do these days because surely everyone who is anyone goes there, right? (if I’ve left out your favorite conference, then include it as well.)

Its so easy to get caught up in such conferences that preach about God and His glory. So we get used to using the lingo about the glory of Christ and tossing around all the right terms. And there right before us lies a subtle trap. It’s very possible to do those things so that others will believe we are deep, solid, and theologically accurate. The right thing begins to be driven by wrong motives. And therein lies the danger. Listen closely and consider.

I believe much of what we see in professing American evangelicalism, including all the Reformed movements and the conservative and family-oriented ministries, is driven by self-centered and man-centered motives and not by motives for God alone.

If the secrets and motives of the hearts of all were fully disclosed and could suddenly be seen, we would probably see that many are trying to steal glory from God for themselves by speak about His glory. And the stealing of His glory is due to wrong inner motives in the heart that motivate much of what is done in ministry. What do I mean? I mean simply this.

A man can preach eloquently about the true God, when ironically, what is actually motivating that man to preach about God’s glory is that he wants to be known as a man who talks greatly about God. A man can develop a preaching ministry that is very popular, well-done with excellence, which seems so sound and good, and yet he is primarily motivated by secret desires to be a popular preacher. He wants success and wants to be known. He wants a cutting-edge ministry that is growing and growing. And he steers everything toward that. When he’s driven by such motivation, he and those who work for him will be blind to it, but the discerning soul will see it because flesh always shows itself to be flesh.

A Bible teacher can teach in a very gifted way the deepest truths revealed in the Bible, and communicate them exceptionally (He’s a fabulous communicator!), but the hidden motive is the desire to be known and liked as an excellent teacher so he can build a bigger and bigger ministry. You see, its the personal reputation he’s after, and he’s using truth about God as his means to a self-centered end, all because of wrong motives.

A church can begin an orthodox ministry that is is impressive and is run very efficiently, but behind it all, the motive is to build a successful ministry empire, in order to be known as the church in town.

A church or ministry can begin and promote their annual conference as being all about God, and yet the primary motive driving the promotion, unknown to everyone except God Himself, is pride; the conference planners are wanting theirs to be known for the sake of their ministry.

A ministry being so well-tuned to give the appearance of doing everything with excellence because image and perception is everything. Wanting to impress anyone, especially donors.

One can have the finest web site available, with the most superb links and resources imaginable, yet it all be only wood, hay, and stubble because its all motivated by the flesh.

There is so much of this that is widespread, that even the least discerning believer among us often sees it clearly. It’s repulsive; and if it is repulsive to any of the Lord’s people, how much more is it material for vomit in the stomach of Jesus Christ, the One who is supposed to get all the glory?

I confess without reservation that there have been many times in the course of 35 years of Christian living and 33 years of ministry, that my motives were wrong. I am sure now my motive often was really only about me and my reputation– what people would think of my messages–if I could impress them with my knowledge–if they thought I was a praying man–if I appeared spiritual and humble. Just think of that–pride driving me to want to be known as humble–how sick and sickening.

I can remember specific times early on when I preached on something mainly because I thought it would be an impressive sermon and I thought I could make it my best one. It is very sad to have to confess it now, but I honestly did not see it at the time. That’s very sad and God is very merciful.

All too often I know that hidden pride motivated me to desire to be seen as something that I wasn’t. My only answer now in looking back on it all is that I did not see it at the time and was so ignorant and immature that I was blind to it all, and God has been infinitely merciful to me.

How could I use Christ, or His Word, or His people, or His gospel, or prayer, or His name, or messages about His glory, with motives of wanting people to think I was a real man of God? The real truth was that I was a novice, immature, carnal in areas of my life, undisciplined, and lacking stability and self-control. God knew it all along and I would feel it at times, but I sure did not want anyone else to know it.

I can look back now over 3 1/2 decades of being a Christian and a preacher, and as I survey those years, I see wood, hay, and stubble that I was often producing, simply because of some wrong motives.

– Wanting to impress

– Wanting to be a part of a particular church

– Wanting to be in a specific ministry or specific type of ministry

– Wanting to start a ministry when it would be years before I was even ready at all to be entrusted by God with any ministry

– Wanting to teach or preach

– Wanting to write a book

– Wanting to be connected somehow to well-known men

– Wanting to become something that God was not purposing for me to become

– Wanting to be something for God when I was not prepared at all to be something for God

– Wanting people to think something of me that was not reality

– Wanting people to have a better impression of me than was accurate and true

This stuff gets down to the very heart of what we are, that only God sees and knows; it is the reality of this self life and impure motives that must die because that is what wants to steal God’s glory by using God for self exaltation.

Honestly, now all such motives have become to me abominable and now cause my mind to be weary and my heart to grieve. I hate it all with a nauseous hatred.

When you begin to really think of it all, I wonder how much such self motives and self interest drives a majority of Christian work and ministry?

– The drive to begin a new ministry

– The zeal of an evangelistic ministry

Mack Tomlinson

Article Resource: Possessing the Treasure

Reference:  Stop Worshiping Idolizing Celebrity Preachers – Paul Washer