Motivating others is big business. Browsing the Internet for motivational speakers and resources will validate this claim. There you will find speakers and authors of all ages addressing an endless variety of topics.
Was Jesus a motivational speaker? I suppose it depends on how this term is defined. Jesus certainly inspired people, encouraged them to achieve their potential, gave them confidence and lifted their spirits.
Perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask if Jesus needed to be motivated. Surely, someone who faced the steep challenges and stiff resistance he did needed his battery charged as all humans do.
I’ve never met anyone who did not need to be motivated. Responsibilities take a toll on all of us and chip away at our energy and passion. Ministers are no exception. They may have a divine calling, but often the call to follow Jesus as leaders puts them at odds with the values and priorities of the world.
What motivates ministers? Since faith is relational, I prefer to ask who motivates ministers. Ministers are motivated by:
People who are thankful and express gratitude. I have to believe the leper who returned to thank Jesus for being healed lifted his spirit (Luke 17:11-19). The other nine did not think this was necessary, so they went on their way after receiving this incredible gift. This foreigner, a Samaritan, who was already different from the others, chose to go back to praise God and thank Jesus before heading home to his family.
No wonder Jesus declared that the Samaritan’s gratitude paved the way for more gifts from God. “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). As disappointed as Jesus was with the response of the nine who did not return, this did not keep him from being touched by the one who did. The Samaritan’s humility gave Jesus hope and turned his attention back to the reason he had been sent by God.
I believe ministers are motivated by the simple words “thank you” more than any other. One sincere expression of gratitude can help a minister see beyond the indifference of the entitled or the ingratitude of the fortunate.
“Curiosity is to a minister what applause is to an actor. It makes all the time in the study worthwhile.”
People who are curious and seek to learn. I want to believe the evening Nicodemus, one of Israel’s most noted scholars and teachers, came knocking at Jesus’ door, the two of them stayed up all night exploring the mysteries of life and faith (John 3: 1-15). One inquiring mind can motivate a minister to keep studying, wrestling with scripture and mining for truths that can be taught in a lesson or preached in a sermon. People who aspire to take their faith to deeper levels inspire ministers to hit the books in search of answers to tough questions.
Curiosity is to a minister what applause is to an actor. It makes all the time in the study worthwhile.
People who make changes in their pursuit to be more like Christ. I don’t think Zacchaeus was the only changed person the day Jesus walked through Jericho and invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home (Luke 19:1-10). After Zacchaeus reoriented his lifestyle, I am confident Jesus moved on to Jerusalem with a renewed sense of his divine calling to offer people a better way of living. Even Jesus had to be encouraged when he realized Zacchaeus’ positive response to his challenge was as radical as the grace he had received.
When ministers notice changes their members make in the way they arrange their priorities, relate to others, resolve conflict, handle adversity, use their resources and accept challenges, they renew their own commitment to follow Jesus more closely and to share his vision for a better world. One changed life emboldens a minister in a way nothing else can.
People who invest their lives in the church by faithfully volunteering and giving their tithes and offerings. Jesus was so impressed one day with an obscure widow he observed in the Temple, he called his disciples to gather around him. Pointing her out, Jesus informed the disciples this humble woman had just placed all the money she had, two tiny coins worth a fraction of a cent, into the offering receptacles. According to Jesus, she placed more in the treasury that day than all the wealthy and influential people (Mark 12:41-44).
Surely, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus thought of this woman’s sacrifice when he was trying to decide whether to give his all the next day on the cross. I would not be surprised if what she did that day in the Temple was a tipping point in Jesus’ decision to give his all.
It is not the size of a gift that inspires ministers as much as it is the sacrifice. People who faithfully support the church with their time, talents and resources motivate ministers to give their best.
Church members who keep their promises and fulfill their commitments. Jesus did not die alone. Around that cross were people who loved Jesus as unconditionally as Jesus loved them, including his mother, Mary, the beloved disciple, John, Mary Magdalen and other women who accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow him. They refused to abandon Jesus in his darkest hour as others had done. They, too, were committed to his pursuit of justice and peace and were willing to pay any price to make hope visible to others.
Perhaps their presence and high level of commitment to his divine mission was the inspiration Jesus needed in his final hours to die with dignity and grace. Their support on that most difficult of days brought out his best.
“What changes do you need to make to be more encouraging and helpful?”
Members who can be counted on during stressful times motivate ministers to persevere. Ministers who are confident they have the support of leaders who love God and their community are more likely to tackle sensitive issues and to make tough decisions that are in the best interest of the church.
Are you motivating your ministers to do and be their best? What changes do you need to make to be more encouraging and helpful?
The best part of this list of people who motivate ministers is how inclusive it is. Participation is not limited to a few or reserved for some and not others. Everyone can play a role in motivating the women and men God has called to lead their church. When this occurs, God is glorified, the church is strengthened, ministers are empowered to do what God has sent them to do and a community’s citizens are drawn to a healthy church serious about being the healing and hopeful presence of Christ.
Perhaps these observations merit a discussion among your friends and your pastor and other church staff. I think, to borrow a phrase from the Baptist News Global trademark, these could be among “Conversations That Matter” for you and your church.