“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 NRSV)
“Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b NRSV)
Before I finished my studies for the ministry, I was doing an internship with a well-experienced, wise pastor. One day he said to me, “If someone could just figure out the key to motivating people, they would get rich.” The comment was more to reflect the struggles all pastors (leaders) have to motivate their group or congregation. This was in 1968. Well, you and I are aware of a lot of motivational speakers over the years who have gotten rich off their audiences. But the question of what truly motivates a person or a group still remains.
Fast forward to earlier this summer. I was watching an episode of “Broncos Country” on TV which always had interesting stories about players present and past, and other interesting football trivia about the team. This particular program featured a Behavioral Psychologist, by the name of Dr. Rick Perea who spoke about motivation as related to football players, especially at the higher levels of play (college and professional). What he had to say really resonated, and it was clear he knew what he was talking about from wide experience working directly with players and teams, not just from theory. This is, in essence, is what he had to say.
There are basically only two kinds of motivation: intrinsic (that which comes from inside a person), and Extrinsic (that which comes from outside a person). The key to real, long-term motivation is the kind that comes from within a person. The external kind of motivation is effective for a while, but will not last. Case in point. A new pro player may be motivated by the external things like the salary, the coach, the team, the excitement of it all, and these will be effective – for a while. But they will not last. The great players and even the good ones discover the motivation that comes from within them to perform at their highest level, and believe it or not, it has nothing to do with their salary or other external factors.
The key to motivation, Dr. Perea, said is to reward the process, not the outcome (like wins or grades). Focusing on the right process will eventually produce successful outcomes. We are not talking about a “magic bullet” here (if we just had the “right coach”,” the right QB”, “the right pastor”, “the right youth leader”, etc., etc., etc.). In football, he said, the right process is focusing on technical skills and improving them, and in the process, giving it FULL EFFORT, WITH A GREAT ATTITUDE, AND GREAT ENERGY.
The lesson here for the church is pretty straightforward. External motivation is keyed to statistics: more people in church, higher giving, a better program, and so forth. This misses the point because it removes the focus from my own self to other things or other people as the answer to our struggles. Only when we begin to focus our own personal attention and energy on the process within our own congregation and look deep inside ourselves to see if “I” am giving it “my” FULL EFFORT, WITH A GREAT ATTITUDE, AND GREAT ENERGY, can we ever expect to see the positive outcomes and growth for our church that we desire.
The New Testament makes this point very clear. It is only when we are focused on the various spiritual disciplines, our life in Christ together, and the nitty-gritty stuff we are to be doing day in and day out with the right attitude and internal motivation that we will begin to see positive outcomes. Scripture is absolutely clear: the outcomes are God’s, not ours. It is God who gives the growth (appropriate to US, NOT to some other church!) when we are properly focused from within ourselves on the process, on the details of our life together in Christ, to do and to give the very best we can simply because we want to and because we believe in it.
Rev. Carroll Morony
Fort Collins, CO