3 Terrible Motivations for Ministry

By Mark Dance

Does it matter why we do ministry, as long as we get it done successfully? A glimpse of 1 Peter 5 reminds us how much ministry motives matter to God — and should matter to us.

Let’s consider three terrible but typical ministry motives against which Peter warns pastors.

1. Ministry motivated by guilt

Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you (v.2a).

I talk to pastors every day, and many are overwhelmed by the demands of their ministry. Some are going through temporary seasons of spiritual and mental anguish that were unavoidable.

Others are sabotaging their own lives and ministries with endless meetings and ministries that have no kingdom impact whatsoever. Why? They feel guilty saying “no.”

The gospel not only frees us from sin and death, but also from the need to perform works of righteousness to gain approval from God or people. The gospel creates a grace zone for the shepherds, as well as the flock.

Guilt is a short-lived ministry motivation that doesn’t work for anyone (See Rom. 3-4; Gal. 3). If guilt is involved, God isn’t.

If you’re currently serving on a guilt trip, take the next exit, because you won’t like where that road leads.

2. Ministry motivated by money

… not out of greed for money but eagerly (v.2b).

Most of you already have figured out ministry isn’t a lucrative career path. Why then do some pastors seem to obsess with money? Money isn’t evil, and can be an appropriate motive for hard work — just not God’s work.

Instead of being motivated by money, realize you have the privilege of a front-row seat to watch Jesus change lives. That’s why I love the words “but eagerly.”

Rightly motivated pastors don’t always sleep well on Saturday nights because they can’t wait to see what God is going to do on Sunday (regardless of how good the offering is).

3. Ministry motivated by control

… not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (v. 3).

Controlling pastors enjoy reminding people of their God-given authority. They use a position and pulpit to bully people into submission.

Sheep won’t follow a bully very far or very long — and sometimes they’ll bully right back!

Implications of ministering with bad motives

Instead of reading more coaching and commentary from me, meditate on these admonitions from God. Here’s what will happen if you attempt to do ministry with the wrong motivations.

1. God will oppose you

All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud (v.5).

2. Satan will distract you

Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith (vv. 8-9a).

This angry lion from hell is a dangerous predator who wants to devour you.

Pride was Satan’s first scheme against the first humans when he tempted Adam and Eve to eat from a tree he promised would make them as smart as God.

3. People will resent you

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).

Peter changed quite a bit from the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry to when he wrote his epistle 30 years later. I suspect his peers helped soften him along the way, especially the Sons of Thunder (James and John).

God can change you too! And don’t be surprised if He uses some salty saints to do it.

What motives are you struggling with most these days? What has the cost been to your life, home, and ministry?

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared at Facts and Trends.,

Published February 14, 2020

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per month full of articles from a variety of Replanting voices.

Mark Dance

Mark Dance (@markdance) speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats — often with his wife, Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net. He’s currently serving as director of pastoral development for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.