Motivations for Preaching Aren’t Always Clear

Motivations for Preaching Aren’t Always Clear

By this point, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you may be wondering why you preach at all.  And, if you have examined your motives, as suggested, you probably have found the need for approval in your list, as well as the desire for validation, and including the longing for intimacy.  This is the last post on negative motivations.  In this post we are going to see that motivations for preaching aren’t always clear or static.  Then we’ll look at some Biblical motivations that will hopefully get us moving in the right directions in future posts.

Motivations for Preaching Can Drift

I like this helpful quote from Gordon MacDonald in his book, Building Below The Waterline

There is probably no such thing as a pure motivation.  Frankly, our hearts have too much evil embedded in them.  And I suspect that even the motivations originating somewhere near purity are likely to be perverted as time goes on.  (p. 52)

As I was typing that paragraph, I had in mind some people who had spectacularly fallen from heights in ministry.  What happened that a minister misused money given by God’s people for a lavish lifestyle?  What happened, as reported in the news recently, that a preacher criticized his congregation because they wouldn’t buy him a Movado watch as a present?  Of course, there are hundreds of such stories.  Were these men and women wrongly motivated when they began their ministries?  In some cases, that may be true, but I suspect that in most of the cases, motivation began to drift.

Here is the reality, again a quote from MacDonald:

Only the man or woman who baptizes his or her motivations eery day will have any hope that things will not turn out sour down the road.  

Examining Motivations

Since motivations for preaching aren’t always clear or static, is it important to examine your motives?  You might quote the statement from Paul about this in Philippians 1:

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

That seems to indicate, doesn’t it, that God doesn’t really care about the motivation behind the preaching.  He only wants Christ preached.

But there is another story in the Bible that indicates that God cares deeply about our motivation.  I’m referring, of course, to Peter’s encounter with Simon the Sorceror, as recorded in Acts 8.  Peter has come to Samaria to build up the believers there.  He lays hands on people, and they receive the Spirit.  Simon wants this capability.  When he offers Peter money to get it, this is Peter’s response:

20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

Here motive meant everything.

Motivations for Preaching Aren’t Always Clear, but Are Always Mixed

Even among the best of us, our motives are mixed.  That’s why it is helpful to examine your motives before you preach.  In the presence of God, pray the prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24.

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.