Motivation has been a constant struggle for me. It is comforting to find that I am not alone in this struggle. Tim Challies asks these questions in this article on Randy Alcorn’s book Managing God’s Money.
“Sometimes I struggle with motives. I struggle with the idea that we are to be motivated to obedience in this world by the promise of reward in the next. This is particularly true when it comes to money. We are to store up treasures in heaven instead of on earth; we are to obey God not just out of a desire to obey him, but out of a desire to increase our reward in heaven. That has always struck me as wrong, as something that is just a little bit less than noble. A truly God-honoring Christian would take obedience as his only motive, wouldn’t he?” Keep reading…
It is comforting to watch Alcorn and Challies wrestle with this issue and I hope that by taking the time to read it yourself, you will be challenged to ponder this concept as well.
Challies spends the bulk of the article dealing with a vertical relationship of motivation between us and God by illustrating the horizontal relationships between parent and child. However, he doesn’t point out the multidimensional or pyramid relationships in seeking God as a community. This is where I struggle with motivation the most. How do you motivate people to seek God? What are the proper incentives to worship? And how can you get other people excited about the Christian life?
As John Piper is known to say, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (The Westminster Catechism) It seems so obvious, and after understanding it, I don’t know why everyone else wouldn’t want to do it. Seeking the LORD is so rewarding. But there are more evidences of those who aren’t seeking that counter balance those who are, and in the end the act of seeking God seems unauthentic. Most people don’t even know where they aren’t seeking God, and since their not prompted to test it, they’ll never find out. I was 21 before I changed my directions from performance based religion, to a intimacy based relationship.
So, what is the best way to fellowship in community? How does one get a passion for God started in the hearts of those closest to us. I submit three steps.
1. Authenticity and transparency – One of the biggest hinderences to an individual’s passion for God is their perception of others. If they see people who are going around acting as Christ’s followers, who don’t emulate His character, they aren’t going to be attracted to seek God. Moreover, they’ll most likely think Christians are hypocrites.
But there is another side of this that people don’t often think about or discuss when addressing authenticity, it’s the aspect that most people looking into the faith often think that Christians are holier than they can ever be. They watch from a distance as we live our perfect little lives and they never see expressions of grace. Christians, parents, and spiritual leaders would do far better to be transparent with their mistakes and emulate what it truly means to seek and accept forgiveness.
2. Relationship – Taking you back to my truth paradigm, relationships play a very powerful role in providing stability in another’s life. It also gives opportunity to be authentic and transparent. Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with a family who is remarkably passionate about their faith and had three teenage daughters who were model Christians. After hearing their testimonies, the parents told me that they had grown up in a spiritual culture, having been raised as Christians, and they were blessed with many experiences where they could testify that God had been good in their life. While, most second generation Christians that I know are rather shallow in their faith or legalistic (which is the same thing as shallowness), the unique feature that this couple had which set them apart was that they each had very strong mentoring relationships growing up.
3. Challenge – Paul told the Church in Thessalonica to test everything and hold to what is good. I think that parents and church leaders as a whole are afraid to allow their children and patrons to do their own testing for fear that they won’t turn out they way they’d hoped. But the the downside to this is that people are not being given an opportunity to personalize their faith. I’m pretty confident that the best way to motivate someone to seek God is to challenge them to do so. Once someone has embarked on the journey of desiring the LORD, they will taste and see that He is good. The best motivation is jumping in with both feet. Once in the hand of God, there is no better way to sustain devotion. God’s continual testing ultimately works out into the most remarkable of characters. It does mean, however, that leaders have to give up the power and control that they’re prone to hold on to.
In the end, the definitive answer to how to motivate community will forever be a mystery. But it is worth striving for. We must find a way to cultivate a culture that is passionate for God. This is the truest expression of the great commission: to make disciples who are fully equipped.