What motivates a regular pastor? What drives him to stand in the pulpit, week after week, proclaiming biblical truth? What causes him to wake up Monday morning and go back to the office after a weekend of discouragement and disappointment? What motivates him to press on in the face of high demands and regular criticism?
Some regular pastors simply want to be liked by their congregation. They preach and visit and serve with the simple desire to be liked. With this motivation, a pastor will be tempted to flatter his people. He will also be susceptible to the dangers of depression (when he is not liked) and pride (when he is liked).
Other regular pastors are motivated by money. Either they’re in it to make a buck personally, or they’re in it to make a buck corporately … or both. Money is an ever-present issue for regular pastors. At home there are mouths to feed and bills to pay. At church there are budgets to meet and ministry to fund. With this motivation, a pastor will be tempted to be a pragmatist, doing whatever it takes to “make a buck.”
Still other regular pastors are motivated by popularity. They struggle with the obscurity that comes with “regular” pastoral ministry, and they long for the popularity enjoyed by certain “celebrity” pastors. With this motivation, a pastor will be tempted to focus on his social media interactions rather than the sheep under his care. A pastor will be tempted to built an online platform rather than make disciples.
In Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he gives us a glimpse of the things that did and did not motivate his ministry:
For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others. (1 Thessalonians 2:5-6)
No flattery. No greed. No glory.
After listing three “non-factors,” Paul explains what actually motivated him in ministry.
First, Paul was motivated by the desire to share the gospel and to share himself. That is, Paul wanted to share the good news of Jesus Christ crucified, but he also wanted to share that good news in the context of genuine relationships. Paul wanted to share the glory of the incarnation through incarnational ministry. Paul describes this motivation by comparing himself to a nursing mother (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
Second, Paul was motivated by the desire to see the Thessalonians walk in a manner worthy of God. These new believers had been called by God into his kingdom to experience his glory, and Paul wanted their lives to reflect what God had done in their lives. Paul describes this motivation by comparing himself to a father with his children (1 Thessalonians 2:11).
Regular pastors should stop and reflect on Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2. What is it that motivates us in ministry? Is it being liked, making a buck, and being famous? Or is it sharing the gospel through genuine relationships and seeing God’s people walk in a manner worthy of the great work God has done in their lives?