Recently I’ve been reconvicted all over again on the issue of motive in mission.  I’m not generally one of those guys who struggles to have joy in ministry.  My problem is that I don’t always do ministry from a place of having joy in enough of the right things.  I love studying the Word, preaching the Word, training up leaders, designing discipleship processes, and so on.  My joy can terminate on those things in and of themselves.  It isn’t inherently wrong to enjoy those kinds of things.  But I need to do what I do in response to more than the joy I experience over performing those functions alone.  What is the great motive from which all my activities should flow?  How about love for God and love for people!  Take it from the Bible:

 “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This [is] the first commandment. And the second, like [it, is] this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

 There it is!  Love for God and people must be the motive for everything I do.  If my motive for doing what I do isn’t love for God and people (even if my activities are amoral) they are of no credit to me in the perspective of God.  My problem is that I can enjoy building systems, preaching sermons, counseling people, and raising up leaders, while thinking and feeling next to nothing for God or people.  I simply enjoy the processes inherently.

So let’s be honest with ourselves today.  God knows the truth already, so hiding is of no value.  Why are excited to preach that message this week?  Why are you looking forward to that meeting with those leaders?  Why are you looking forward to that upcoming ministry opportunity?  Why are you buzzing with zeal on the inside over expanding the scope of your mission?  Is the foundational motive of your mission love for God and people, and the knowledge that these other things merely facilitate the expression and expansion of that love?  Or is the foundational motive of your mission and activities simply an enjoyment of the processes, roles, and opportunities themselves?

Let’s take a love test.  If the verses were expressing your motive for mission, how would Mark 12:30-31 read?  Would it be, “My motivation for the mission comes from loving the ministry my God (processes, sermon, study, counseling, opportunities, prestige) with all my heart, mind, strength, and soul.  And I don’t think much of my neighbor, but I love myself.”?  Or would it read, “My motivation for the mission comes from actually loving THE LORD MY GOD and MY NEIGHBOR as myself.”?  Think about it.  Pray about it.  Respond appropriately.

7 replies
  1. James
    James says:

    Thanks for the gut check, Kellen! (That’s all I have to say. I’m sure someone else will crank out a two paragraph comment for you. However, my coffee is still brewing and I’d rather not come off baroque in speech.) Stoked that God let’s me be led by you!

  2. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Good word, Kellen – it hits home. So often, my joy in ministry comes from the things I enjoy doing (much like your list). Then, when I get out of the boundaries of the things I enjoy, ministry becomes burdensome. But when I, like you, return to my first love and just love the Lord and worship Him, I receive my joy from Him and not the inherent pleasure of the task. And this joy permeates all the tasks of ministry. It is easy for me to become slothful in the things I don’t enjoy. I have been convicted that some of the things I am responsible for in ministry look like the field of a sluggard. The joy of the Lord resulting from loving the Lord turns my field green. Thanks again.

    • Kellen Criswell
      Kellen Criswell says:

      Good reference, Matt. The church in Ephesus from Rev. 2 is a great example of what we’re talking about. Thanks for the note. And I’m excited to see your bio under the “Authors” section on this site. 🙂 Looking forward to reading your posts in the future, and interacting more with you.

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