Most of the time we tend to focus on what we are doing. Sometimes we ponder how we could do it better. Too rarely we ponder the motivation behind our ministry. Why do we preach?
Let’s ponder two simple reasons (loaded with multiplied motivations in pregnant-with-meaning summaries):
1. Because we love God. The God we love is the God who loved us first – who loves, who speaks, who gives of his riches, who gives himself. This captures our hearts and gives us something to say. We love God because he is the best news we have ever received, and so we want to spill that thrillingly good news to others. We want to see God’s work built up, and it is a work done not by force, but by proclamation, presentation and appeal. We are not mere recipients of a good message, but we are drawn into the eternal conversation out of which that message has come – the Spirit of God is at work in us pointing our hearts to Christ in whom we see the heart of the Father. God is at work in hearts and we get to participate in that.
Preaching as an act of devotion, an act of worship, and even preaching as obedience to God’s Word and as obedience to his calling on our lives – these could all be added. But the bottom line surely is this: as we take stock of our own motivation in preaching, are we still gripped and driven by a vertical responsiveness? This can so easily grow dull or become corrupted by a self-elevation and self-worship. Surely the best thing to do here is to spend time on our face before God and ask Him what our motivations are (ask yourself and you may respond with a lie!)
2. Because we love others. Loving God shapes our loves to conform to his. He deeply loves the people who will sit in the church on Sunday, or who will visit for the guest event, and so gradually our love for these people grows too. We want to serve them by offering the very best news there is. We want to preach because people need to hear the good news – both those who still live as dead in the realm of darkness, and those who are in the family, but feel the constant pull of the flesh toward self-reliance. We preach because we want others to have the joy that comes from not only receiving, but also spilling to others according to the way God made and wired them.
Love the Lord, love your neighbour . . . simple.
3 thoughts on “The Why Behind Preaching”
Focusing on the “why” matters not only in preaching, but in any setting in which we give of ourselves to others. Our motivation can either be love for ourselves, i.e. looking for affirmation, thanks, praise, etc., or love for God, who has loved us first and given himself to us. And I so much appreciate your wise advice to be on our faces before God asking him to search our hearts regarding our motivation. Thank you!
Thanks Gretchen – you are right that this applies in all areas of ministry. It is frightening how hard it is to see the self-serving motivations in the mirror! That is why we need God to point it out to us.
“Surely the best thing to do here is to spend time on our face before God and ask Him what our motivations are (ask yourself and you may respond with a lie!)”
This is a critical point I/we need to understand. David asked in the Psalms for God to search his heart and know him and try him, because he also understood how easily we deceive ourselves. This question of motivation is one I revisit nearly every weekend before preaching on Sunday. I think Satan keeps up a never-ending assault on our minds in regard to how we think about our calling.