Although there are lazy pastors around, there are also a huge number of pastors who are working flat-out 60-80 hours a week. Every week. What’s motivating them? What’s driving them to such superhuman levels of busyness?
Some are motivated by the Gospel. What higher and holier motive can there be than the spread of the Gospel of Christ, the salvation of souls, the building of Christ’s church, and the manifestation of God’s glory?
Such godly men have to be careful that their love for the Gospel and for souls does not lead to burnout. As they age, they usually need to adjust their pace and hours downward if they are to have any long-term usefulness.
Some men, though, have less exalted motives, including:
1. Fame. Yes, it’s sadly possible to work thousands of hours a year in Gospel work and be motivated almost entirely by the promotion and polishing of one’s own name and reputation.
2. Money. Due to the number of Christians in the some countries, there is a large and lucrative evangelical marketplace for books, conferences, and other religious products that can easily become the focus of some men’s work and ministries.
3. Guilt. Some men enter the ministry to “make up” for moral and spiritual failings in their past. For these sweating laborers, the ministry has become a sort of evangelical penance that they hope they can eventually do enough of in order to atone for their record. They may preach grace but they’ve lost sight of the Gospel for their own souls and end up trying to please God with more and more hours, more and more sacrifice.
4. Man-pleasing. Through feelings of insecurity, they pour themselves into other people’s lives in order to feel needed, wanted, and appreciated.
5. Showing off. Some ministers feel the need to prove themselves “real men” with “real jobs.” They busy themselves especially with work that can be seen and noticed in order to convince other men that they are equally tough and hard.
6. Identity. Some pastors and missionaries fall into the trap of making their work and work rate their primary source of identity, the main way they think about themselves and want others to think about themselves too.
7. Escape. Some are running away from their marriages and their children, especially if there are problems at home. Far more glamorous to be touring the country saving souls than dealing with the mess at home.
8. Pleasure. Others are driven by the pleasure of ministry – pastoral hedonism, if you like. It can be so enjoyable to prepare sermons, preach, counsel, lead, etc., especially when Gospel fruit is being produced. This can result in a severe work/life imbalance and calls for some painful self-denial.
9. Control. I’ve known pastors who feel that they must be involved in every area of church life and even the minute details of individual Christians’ lives. They cannot trust God or His people with anything, but feel they must do and decide everything if the church is to survive.
10. Arminianism. I couldn’t sleep at night if I was a consistent Arminian. Which pastor could close their eyes if their salvation depended on their own will and the salvation of others depended on their own efforts. It must also be said that many theoretical Calvinists are practical Arminians.
When we read through this list, who cannot but confess that all of us have mixed motives in all that we do, even in the holy duties of preaching and pastoring?
Let’s take this list to the Lord, confessing the hideous mixture that attends all our labors, and enjoy the purifying effect of the blood of Christ on both our past guilt and our future motives.