Spiritual Life of the Leader - Lesson 5

Questions About Evaluating Your Motives

How do you determine if your motives are right in your efforts to serve God? The more gifts and talents we have, the more susceptible we are to self-deception regarding our motives. Resist the urge to make pleasing people your primary motivation. You will never please everyone and in the process you lose sight of focusing on pleasing God. When people have expectations of you that don’t match what God has called you to do, there are times when you must, “let Lazarus die.”

Stephen Martyn
Spiritual Life of the Leader
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Questions About Evaluating Your Motives

I. Questions About Evaluating Your Motives

A. How do you monitor your motives?

B. What do you mean by, "the merits of Christ?"

C. How do you respond when you see "red flags"

D. Wanting affirmation in ministry

E. What do you do when peoples' expectations don't match what God is calling you to do?

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Class Resources
  • Dr. Martyn has surveyed church leaders around the world to understand their responsibilities and pressures. He aims to use his experience to help them develop a model of ministry that encourages spiritual formation, discipleship, and worship in a healthy way. His class is comprehensive on topics such as spiritual formation, discipleship, leadership principles, and worship. Listening to this class could benefit anyone regardless of whether they have an official leadership position or not.
  • Christian activism is Christians seeking to be involved in the issues and needs of the day and time. Wesleyans in the 1700's in England sought to minister to people that others didn’t care about. To be called by Christ is to be called into the body of Christ. A biblical model is that every member is a full-fledged minister of the gospel without distinction between clergy and laity. 

  • Mysticism can be described as the direct communication of your spirit with the Divine Spirit as taught and illustrated in the New Testament as a fundamental part of Christian belief. Receptivity means that I am open to what the Lord is saying to me through the revelation of his word, the magnificence of his son and the voice of his Spirit which is consistent with the written word. The church was emphasizing what they were doing for God rather than on first listening to what God wants us to be and then acting. Union with our Lord must come before any type of donation or work (kenosis) for our Lord. (Download the complete text of the sermon by clicking on the link on this page or under the Downloads heading on the class page.)

  • Which do you love more, the Lord or the projects you are doing for him? Is your goal to exalt the Lord or build a personal kingdom? Essence of anxiety is whether or not you can trust God. The question to ask when you begin having feelings of self-pity is, “Is you life going to be defined by how you think it ought to go?”  The blame-shame mindset is that you are unhappy because there is something wrong with the people around you. When you experience these red flags in your ministry, you should recognize it as time that it’s possible that the Lord may be prompting you to make a change in your life.The Mary in you must rest at the feet of Jesus if the Martha in you is to do her work.

  • Essence is who the Lord has created you to be. Biblically, essence precedes existence as oppose to Sartre's teaching that man is no more than what he makes of himself. God has given us the capacity of reception, to be able to hear God’s voice and follow it. The spiritual life that God calls you to live is based on what you receive from God, not on what you do for God.

  • How do you determine if your motives are right in your efforts to serve God? The more gifts and talents we have, the more susceptible we are to self-deception regarding our motives. Resist the urge to make pleasing people your primary motivation. You will never please everyone and in the process you lose sight of focusing on pleasing God. When people have expectations of you that don’t match what God has called you to do, there are times when you must, “let Lazarus die.”

  • God wants us to be faithful to the kingdom and his son and fruitful according to his metrics. What’s the goal and what condition do our hearts need to be in to understand the goal? The Mary in us needs to rest at the feet of Jesus in order for the Martha in us to do her work. Think about when you experienced renewal and think about when you were blessed. When you have received God’s blessing, how has that resulted in demonstrating his hand of mercy to someone else? How are your activities balanced?

  • A canal simultaneously pours out what it receives. A reservoir waits till it’s filled then discharges water without loss to itself. Today, there are many in God’s church that act like canals. The reservoirs are far too rare. So urgent is the charity of those through whom heavenly doctrine flows that they want to pour it forth to us before they have been filled. They are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves. High mountain lakes have one stream out and water level relatively constant throughout the year. How is the water level staying constant in your life? Depletion results in erosion of presence, and results in just going through the motions. 

  • The Lord desires that we live dispositionally. Important elements include loving God, living devotionally, relational strengthening, vocational serving (listening with the intent of following what I hear). Dallas Willard wrote, “If I am a disciple of Jesus, I am with him to learn from him, how to be like him." The primary calling of a pastor is to follow Jesus, within the calling of leading a church. 

  • The eight deadly sins are in the order that Satan uses to try to get us and in the order in which we need redemption. Gormandize means you are overdoing it and being a slave to flesh. Fornication refers to a wandering heart and seeking to devour others. Avarice is the love of money and sometimes is a fear of not having enough. Anger is a rancorous spirit. The spiritual cancer of depreciation is looking at the vast horizon of God’s goodness in his creation and my life and depreciating it, only seeing what’s wrong. Psalm 51:10-12, create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me.

  • When you experience a difficult situation, how do you begin to turn your focus away from the negative and on to what God is doing? How do you respond when you are working closely with people that don't like you? What do you do as a leader when there is a person that is angry with you and disagrees with how you are leading?

  • The sin of acedia is, “I don’t care anymore.” The sin of tristitia is sadness, wrongly processing suffering and loss, allowing the soul to close in on itself and refuse instruction from God. Tristitia is neither a result of other people or of our outward circumstances. Satan wants to get us off the track in stupid presumption or in sinful carelessnenss. God redeems the hurt that evil has done.

  • In the early church passion was seen as something that controlled you and out of control and leading you astray, not a positive motivation. John Cassion described vainglory as passion to take pleasure in our own qualities. The danger is that we take credit for what God is doing. In pursuit of being popular, we often sacrifice who we are at the core. Pride is the original vice from which all others spring. Pride can develop into functioning atheism. The cure for pride is to have the humility of Jesus in our heart. 

  • Is there a sin that's not deadly? To what extent can you worry about something before it becomes a sin? What does it take to overcome gluttony? The minute you make an exception for yourself, you either presume on the grace of God or break a known law of God. Admit what you are feeling and submit it to God to have faith in him in the situation, then do your part.

  • Instead of gluttony, we see temperance. Temperance means living a balanced life. Chaste love is extending love to others, not preying on them. Poverty of spirit rather than greed. Cultivate meekness to deal with anger. You have been forgiven much so you should be willing to forgive others much. Cultivate faith, hope and love to deal with hopelessness. Cultivate humility to deal with vainglory. Evangelism in the first 300 years a result of the quality of the lives of disciples as they lived in a hostile environment. 

  • A transcendent crisis is yearning for the “more than.” “Is life meaningful?” “Is God good?” Can I trust my life to God or have I been abandoned by God? An idolatry crisis happens when you run after a passion rather than pursue God. Each person in your sphere of influence is going through crises in their own lives. God can use a crisis to help something in us die so we can experience and share the light of Christ.

  • To feed the 5,000, the disciples had to rely on Jesus because they didn’t have the resources. Jesus walked out on the water to comfort the disciples with his presence. The disciples thought they were going to die a terrible death. If you choose to think your situation, the church and others are hopeless, it results in ego desperation, or hopelessness. You see what’s wrong, you think you have exhausted your resources and you see no way that it’s going to get fixed. If you allow the crisis to take you into the life of Christ and dependence on him, it will not destroy you. 

  • It's important for us to understand how our relationship with God is affected by being born at a certain period of time and in a certain society. The vital is the physical dimension of the human life. Vitalism is where your physical pleasures become the priority in your life.  Functional is the roles, tasks and responsibilities we take on. It’s a problem when we allow our roles and responsibilities to define us, which is functionalism. Transcendent is the longing for the “more than.” Pneumatic/Ecclesial level is the capacity the Lord has given each of us to hear and respond to the Holy Spirit, God’s voice. When ambition gets separated from the leading of the Spirit, it can become self-promotion. Functional Transcendence is you using the things of God for self-gain.

  • It's important to keep Christ at the center of who you are. Interiority includes memory, intellect, will. Augustine says will is most important.In addition to our personal thoughts, we exist in community with others who are submitting their lives to the will of Christ. The Lord has placed us in a certain place and time and wants you to live a life of obedience in that context every day, not just one day a week. The Father is seeking to form your life into the image of Christ as you were meant to be. Through our experiences, God forms you into a unique person. On the relational side, this results in compassion for others because we love others with the same love we experienced. God gives us confidence that he has given us the gifts and resources we need to live out the calling he has given us. Competence that our ministry will be effective. Our courage comes from trusting in the strength of the Lord. Community, the work of God’s Church is a work done with others. Confirmation comes internally from God and externally from the community of faith. 

  • If you are following Jesus, you have a role as a leader. If a spiritual leader does not understand what their task is according to scripture, then their spiritual life is not going to have the focus the Lord wants them to have.  Worship is a response of the love that has been shown to us. Worship involves our all aspects of us and is enabled by God’s Spirit. We worship God because of who he is. By looking at Jesus, you see who God is.

  • The Church needs you to present what Scripture says, not your own ideas. Worship means to kneel before someone out of respect or honor. We owe it to God as an act of service to sit at his feet and worship him. Spiritual worship is to place our physical bodies at God’s disposal. Are we leading people to worship God, or just providing religious goods and services to them? Solid biblical teaching is important. Structure follows purpose. We are failing to dig down into the revelation of God and let the revelation of God set the compass. If you are not careful, your program sets your agenda.

  • Movements in worship: 1. kneeling in acts of loving worship. Kneeling in submission before God to acknowledge that you are dependent on him. 2. Exalting God by declaring his worthiness 3. Receiving God’s life symbolized by the sacrament of communion. 4. Empowers us and encourages us to go out and serve. We participate in the fellowship and life of the Trinity. We need to immerse ourselves in relationship to God and let that inform and empower what we do so that our worship service is more than creating an experience or transmitting information. Be explicit about your purpose in worship and include prayer.

  • The elders fall before the throne, they worship the Lord and they cast their crowns before him. Falling before the throne represents an acknowledging of God as absolute deity. What is going to happen in the future tells us what we should be doing now. When we fall down before the throne, our heart condition is inward humility and submission to the Lord. Then they raise up and exalt the Lord by proclaiming his worth. Inward love results in proclaiming what is right, good, just and holy. Taking of crowns is an outward expression of placing everything we have under the Lordship of Christ and an inward movement of total abandonment of everything we are to God.

  • The call of Jesus to, “follow me” is the call to redirect everything in our lives. A disciple is one who seeks to fulfill the will of the father by actively following Jesus the Son while continually depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Faith is my trust in Jesus as well as the content of the Gospel. Practice is putting it into play. Catechism is the content of the faith, and catechesis is how you express it. Cheap grace is not biblical because it allows for justification without ensuing discipleship. Primary purposes of the church are to proclaim the Gospel, worship and make disciples. In addition to knowing the content, you must live it out. Clergy need to learn how to make and train disciples. Laity must be fully committed full-time ministers of the body of Christ.

  • Movements that are necessary for the church today to fulfill what God is calling them to do. For the clergy, 1. moving from pastor as the primary minister to each believer fulfilling their calling as full-time ministers in their spheres of influence; 2. Moving from preaching only to not only appropriate sermon preparation time but also discipling a core group; 3. Moving from a priority on numbers to staying with a process that results in mature disciples; 4. From solo leadership to team leadership. Discipleship should not be optional. Old Christendom model is breaking down but confusion on who and what we are called to be. “Is my first aim to make disciples, or do I just run an operation?” For the laity, 1. From going to church to being Church; 2. From expecting benefits from Christianity requiring no sustained effort to being intent on being disciples; 3. From being passive observers to full-time ministers. Primary purpose of leader is to equip the people of God to do the work of God.

  • The sermon is a critical part of the discipleship process. The “through” movement is the process of the “from-to” movement. Each of these steps must be contextualized to your situation. We are aiming for maturity in Christ. As a leader, you love the whole but you only disciple the few. Don’t neglect public proclamation but don’t see that as the end of your ministry. Daily pray, read scripture, weekly services, small groups acts of service, fasting, giving. Discipleship is helping people integrate the word of God into their lives.

  • Tozer says we don’t have the right of choosing Jesus as Savior and postponing our obedience. Dispositions are something that’s part of your daily life. Christian disciplines help us to love God and love our neighbor. Encourage people to seek God’s direction for where he wants them to serve. The biblical model is that mature Christians will live as disciplined followers. Make it a goal for pure love to fill your heart and govern your words and actions.

What do you think the priorities should be for a leader in the Church? How do you cultivate your personal spiritual life in a way that keeps you emotionally healthy and helps you avoid choosing sin? What is your measure of success for your church? How does that compare with a biblical measure of success? What is a disciple? What should the process of discipleship look like? What principles can you learn from the way Jesus interacted with his followers that will help you to encourage spiritual formation of the people in your sphere of influence? What are sins that people in leadership have commonly struggled with over the past 2,000 years? How do you recognize them in your own life and what are some practical ways to avoid them or repent and recover from them? What is the essence of worship? How do you live your life so you are worshipping God authentically in everything you do? How do you lead worship in a group setting in a way that encourages others to worship authentically? 

These are a few of the questions that Dr. Martyn poses to begin a conversation regarding the subject of the spiritual life of the leader. As a pastor for more than 20 years, Dr. Martyn asked and answered these questions in the context of loving and serving people personally. As part of his current position of teaching future pastors at Asbury seminary, he and some of his colleagues have conducted extensive surveys of church leaders throughout the North America and the world to get a better understanding of the responsibilities and pressures that church leaders face every day. His goal is to be able to understand biblical principles and use his experience to help leaders develop a model of ministry that helps them develop their personal spiritual life and give them a model to disciple and encourage the people they work with in a way that is healthy and encourages their faith and practice. 

Whether you have an official leadership position or not, you will benefit from listening to this class. It is one of the most comprehensive classes on spiritual formation, discipleship, leadership principles and worship that you will ever hear. If you listen and reflect on each of the lectures from beginning to end, you will be glad you did. 

Coures: Spiritual Life of the Leader

Lecture 5: Questions About Evaluating Your Motives

I. Questions About Evaluating Your Motives

A. How Do You Monitor Your Motives?

We really need time to integrate what we have heard; sometimes it is good to question what we have heard. We need to ask whether or not it is really the Gospel or not. Anything a prophet says is subject to who or what of the other prophets. Does anyone have the whole truth of God in their life? Well, God gives us Jesus and his truth. Anyway, questions help us integrate the information that we have.

How can we distinguish between building a kingdom for the Lord and building a kingdom for ourselves? I think that as an individual, I am not fully capable of seeing it. I think the more gifts and grace that God has given me the more capable I am of self-deception. I am speaking out of my own personal life here; none of this is theoretical. I think the only way we can avoid self-deception is through the community that we live in and are a part of. If I am married I would also refer to my wife or spouse to know what they think. Moreover, Christianity is not me but instead it is we; Christianity is in the plural, not in the singular. There are some things that can be accomplished being a single person. No one can accept the goodness of God’s kingdom for me; I have to accept that myself. When you look at Jean-Paul Sartre, this leads to individualism and egoism; it is whatever feels right and whatever feels good for you. The early church talked about the eight deadly sins and the beginning of holiness is the realization of all the eight deadly sins reside in my life. The worst of the worst are vain glory followed by pride. Vain glory is thinking in terms of how good you are, taking the credit instead of giving it to God. The only way I know to do that is to submit myself to a small group of people who I allow to speak into my life. In some circles, it is called a 360 review which is really difficult. You allow those over you and those under you and beside you to speak truth into your lives. What we know from the early churches, the deeper you get into Christ, the more subtle deceptions you have. I have to have the body of Christ in my life.

B. What do You Mean by, ‘The Merits of Christ?’

You are using the phrase, ‘the merits of Christ.’ I know you don’t mean it in the Roman Catholic sense and so how do you mean it? When I talk about the merits of Christ in a classical understanding, it is what was accomplished for humanity on the Cross. We are talking about the atonement, the fact that Jesus died in my place. He defeated evil and took the punishment. Was God joking when he said that if you should not eat of the fruit, you will die? It is what Jesus did for me, a onetime historic act and we need to avoid thinking that this was some kind of a heroic martyr’s debt, something that inspired us, which is not a Christian view. We are not talking about a heroic martyr, but instead the God of the universe dying on the cross, a onetime historic event that covered the sin of the world. Does that mean that every person personally receives that? No, it doesn’t, but every person who responds, bending the knee and following Christ.

C. How do You Respond When you see Red Flags?

If we see any of the red flags in ourselves, the course will help us to know how to deal some of those. But just briefly, it is easy to identify those red flags in other people and especially in leaders. I don’t know if it is true but it seems like the more fame they get, it seems like it is even easier to see it. Do you have any thoughts on how to react to people who are in our leadership circles that I personally have to talk to or answer to?

This is a two point question and I need to know whether I understand it or not. Basically, what I do when I identify those in my own life and what I do when I identify those in other’s lives. For the second question, in 1st John 5:14, this is the boldness we have in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us and if we know that he hears us and in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the request made of him. In verse 16, if you see your brother committed what is not a mortal sin, you will ask and God will give life to such a one. This is where I have such an issue at times; the Lord created us to have sense of right and wrong. That is part of the work he has done for all humanity. So, when we see a wrong or injustice, we are naturally indigent. Sometimes we are called to stand against that which is wrong and it is right and good to stand against that which is wrong. I think the greater issue is who do I have a right to get mad at? If you take the wisdom of the early church for they say that there is only one person in the world you have a right to be angry with and that is yourself. Oswald Chambers says that you want the mind of Christ and he is trying to put life into that person. So the call for me is to ask what I see in the life of others. Do I just see what is wrong or am I trying to have the mind of Christ? You want the mind of Christ to pray life into your spouse and goodness into your children and to pray for your pastor. I’m checking those red flags because I don’t want to be known as a person who is always against, always irritated and angry with somebody else. This is making life miserable for yourself and everybody around you. The Holy Spirit brings these things up and you can deny them and thus you give Satan a foothold in your life.

D. Wanting Affirmation in Ministry

Just this last week, I met with a group of pastors and what you are talking about came up. This touched my heart then and also now. When we go up to preach and prepare, at one level, you don’t want to look like an idiot and at another level, you want people to like you; you did a great job. At one level, you want God to legitimately be glorified in the process. I’m assuming that tension because I don’t know which is taking over sometimes. I don’t have the ability to do so. I am assuming that tension is something we can live with and that God is in the sanctification process and can reveal what he wants. Is that accurate thinking, otherwise I don’t even know how we function.

I like your language of tension because you are admitting that there could be some impure stuff. All of us have to come to admit: am I going to collapse in being an anxious people pleaser? That term comes from the famous Neil Freudian psychotherapist by the name of Horney, a German psychotherapist. It is called the neurosis of our time. Am I going to be an anxious people pleaser? This is how it would work for me; I could literally have a hundred people walk out on Sunday morning and say, ‘good sermon preacher’ and a hundred people would tell me how something specifically spoke to them or how there was a transformational moment. And then one old blessed soul would come out and tell you how bad it was. It happens with anybody in an upfront ministry. It is even worse if you are a music person. I would find myself focusing the whole week on that one person and then I would go through all the red flags. I am called to present the Word as faithfully as I can and he knows that I am a cracked pot. The vessel is cracked. Being a potter, I love to do pottery. So, my vessel is cracked, it leaks and I have to have continual accountability. It is his word and I trust the power of that; I just pray for freedom for those I am training that you will not be lead down the path of being a people pleaser. I am not here to please anyone; I am here to please God. Does God love us enough to have people oppose us? It is just part of ministry today. You are not going to go anywhere without having opposition.

You are doing your best to check whether you are doing any kind of people pleasing. You are not there to build your own kingdom; you are being faithful and in that I will say to rest in the Lord. He is going to work it out.

E. What do You do When People’s Expectations don’t Match what God is Calling you to do?

I know that we are called to serve people and to serve the Lord with ministry being the idea of serving people in the process of it. People see us as serving them and there is a tension between serving the Lord and serving people between being a people pleaser and just trying to do your job. People have a lot of expectations on what that job is. I am wondering about the consumer culture that we live in. I know what some of the answers are but how do we resist this, that constant pressure to do your job.

You have to let Lazarus die. Once again, Mary and Martha, what? You stayed three days longer! He is dead! We are going to do a whole thing on expectation and anticipation. Expectations kill us. So the expectation is that I have hired you, I am paying you to do a job and basically it works itself out to saying, you are okay if you are there when I need you and how I need you on my own terms. In other words, omni-available, and my word is that you have to let Lazarus die. This has been a wonderful session and I pray that the Lord will guard his Word even through my very fallible ways.