Philippians 1:15-18a, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
Pastor, I want to have a heart to heart conversation with you today. Why are you in ministry? What motivates you to continue in ministry? Have you ever had this internal conversation with yourself going over and over again your original calling to ministry and whether or not your current motives line up with that moment in your life?
If you were to tell me that you’ve never questioned your own motives for being in ministry, then I’d have to call your bluff because every pastor or ministry leader I know has once or twice in their life. It’s only natural for us as humans to question our decision making and ask “What if?” questions about moments in our past and wonder if we had done things differently how they would have turned out in the present.
Speaking from personal experience, I have questioned my own motives for being a pastor and have had to “check my heart” against pride, personal glory, and increased reputation. It’s far too easy to give in to these temptations. Pastor, believe me, I know that people will try to cozy up to you and fawn over you at times. They’ll give you good press and make you believe that you’re the best thing this side of Heaven. It’s easy to get puffed up and prideful when people treat you this way. It’s easy to lose sight of why you’re in the ministry to begin with when this starts to happen. When this happens, pastor beware, the slippery slope of compromise and competitiveness to be better than the next church down the road can slide right into your heart and mind. Monitoring your motives and checking your heart constantly for any sinful patterns that could lead to envy of others, rivalry, pride of oneself, and seeking out glory for yourself need to be a weekly if not daily personal prayer needs. Pastors, we must remember we’re not ministers of and for ourselves, but rather we’re ministers of the gospel and for the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this passage, Paul is writing to warn the Philippian Christians that there are men out there who are in the ministry only for their own personal glory and for fame. They are serving no one but themselves and doing so out of an attempt to gain prestige and power in some form or fashion. Those who preach Christ with this outcome in mind are nothing more than modern-day charlatans and snake oil salesmen out to make a quick buck or two. There is hope though, because ultimately, if the gospel is truly proclaimed by these sorts of ministers, then perhaps someone will hear the truth of Christ and respond in faith.
We do know that the Word of God has the power to save and that it will not return void when truthfully and faithfully preached. Ultimately though, men who seek to only satisfy their own gluttonous greed for personal glory will miss the beautiful simplicity of the new birth and the majestic glory of Christ. Pastor, do not be like these men. Instead, be like the men that Paul later speaks about who preach the gospel of Christ and do the work of an evangelist out of love for the lost, love for Christ, and in honor of those who came before them and led them to the Lord in the first place. Thankfully, as I mentioned before, if Christ is ultimately proclaimed by the former and the latter groups of men, then we can, therefore, rejoice as Paul does knowing full well that the Word will go out and people will hear.
Nonetheless, we who call ourselves pastors and ministers must still guard our own hearts and monitor our motives. We shouldn’t be upset or angry when another church begins to grow in attendance, and yours is stagnant. We shouldn’t be sad or envious when a pastor friend of ours gets a new job at a larger, more prominent church. Instead, we should rejoice that a church is seeing new people come to faith in Christ. We should rejoice with our friends in being honored for being faithful pastors and ministers of the gospel. We should rejoice no matter how the gospel is proclaimed and we should maintain the course of faithfully expositing the Word of God, making disciples, and seeing the Great Commission become a passion of all people in our congregations.
If your motivations to be in ministry are for prestige and power then get out now and repent of these grievous sins. They will only cause you to be depressed and angry and spiral into despair. If your motivations to be in ministry are to see Christ exalted, see people dead in their sins become alive in Christ, and see the glory of God made known then earnestly pray against any form of temptation of pride and selfishness. Maintain the course brother pastors. Follow Paul’s example and keep lifting up the name of Jesus, no matter the circumstances and situations you may find yourself in. Rejoice when people come to faith in Christ no matter how they come to faith in Christ. Remember your original calling to ministry and ground yourself in the joy that is Christ and Christ alone.
2 Peter 1:3-11, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.