An old army game that is played equally well outside the military goes something like this. In the never-ending shuffle of paper work and material the idea is, "Keep it moving!" Never get caught with the stuff on your desk. And, "If you can't move it, paint it!"
Somehow this same philosophy has invaded our thinking in the church. Moving men to action, the kind of action God wants, is difficult-so we paint them into the scene, usually sitting in the pews.
Moving Men to Action
Why is it so hard to move people to action? There are any number of reasons. Let's look at a few:
"I don't know what I could contribute, except my ignorance. I wouldn't know what to do?'
"Oh, I couldn't do that! I've never done anything like that before."
Or, "I lust serve the Lord in my own quiet, humble way, but I'd never be able to handle that kind of job. That's too much for me!"
So our first motivational problem is how to change "Mission Impossible" to "Mission Possible." We all need to know the resources from which we operate---and that they are adequate.
Moving Moses---and me
God has this problem with each of us, so it's not new to him. An early account of the way he motivates is found in his conversation with Moses recorded in Exodus 3:7-4:14. An up-dated version of this account might sound something like this:
"I've got a job for you, Moses. I want you to go to the king of Egypt and tell him you're going to take all his Hebrew slaves out of his country." (The modern equivalent of this would be to announce to the Russian government that you intend to set free all their captive peoples, including those in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.)
"Who, me? Who am I to tackle this kind of suicide mission?" Moses' reply was not surprising.
"But I will be with you," the Lord answered.
It would seem that this should make a difference---that what God proposes to do he can accomplish, through any instrument. But Moses was not convinced. So he brought out his next objection. "Who are you? If I go to the children of Israel and tell them what you're proposing, they'll say, 'Says who? Who gave you this wild-eyed idea?' What can I say then?"
At this point in his life, even after some thirty-five years at God's Desert Training Camp in Midian, Moses still didn't know his God. (Do you suppose we share his problem?)
So God, in simple, regal terms, replied, "I am who I am."
The force of these words hardly penetrates the English language. While in English it sounds as if God is saying, "It's none of your business," it is really a play on the verb to be, and conveys the idea that God is the eternally self-existent One with no beginning; the One who has always been around and is always here. "Tell them that I AM sent you." Following this declaration, God stated in clear terms what he intended to do through Moses.
Moses still objected. (How like us!) "But look, they'll never believe me," he said.
"What do you have in your hand?"
"Throw it on the ground." It became a snake. And Moses ran! "Come on back. Don't be afraid. Pick up the snake by its tail." "By its tail! That's no way to handle a poisonous reptile! You must be kidding!"
"Come on now, do what I tell you." (Did God ever tell you to do something that seemed totally unreasonable? He usually does. But think it through. If we could figure out everything, how would he stretch our faith? His thinking and acting would be pretty puny if it were limited to what we can understand!)
So Moses did it! To his credit, he began to be a man of faith at last And the snake became a rod again, to be from that time on the symbol of the authority of faith.
Well, at this point it looked as if Moses had the idea, but obviously the life of faith is not learned in one easy lesson. So he objected again. "But, Lord, I can't talk." Have you ever noticed how eloquent we can be, attempting to explain that we can't talk?
But God, still patiently reasoning, replied, "Who made man's mouth? Is it not I, the Lord? Now, go ahead; I will be with your mouth and teach you what to say." (What an offer! Yet it's the same idea we get in the New Testament in, "Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20) and ". . . we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us" (2 Cor. 4:7).
But Moses declined the offer. "Lord, send someone else."
At this, God got mad!
Do you see why? Up to that point Moses had said, "Lord, I'm inadequate, I can't do it." But now the implication is "And I don't believe you can do it either." No wonder God was angry! But how often do we do this same thing? Oh, I know we can say, "I wish God spoke to me that plainly; then I'd do what he says." Certainly there is some validity to that argument, because sometimes we honestly don't know. But we need not remain in ignorance; God has promised to give wisdom to anyone who asks (James 1:5). Actually there's no excuse for either Moses or us, since unbelief is the real problem in either case. It isn't that we don't' know (or can't find out) what God wants!
What do we have in our hands but a whole book full of instructions on what God wants of us and commands to be obeyed, even pleadings to enlist our cooperation. God has provided all the encouragement our hearts could desire. His word to us is, "As I was with Moses---so I am with you."
"As I was with Moses, so I am with thee."
Wondrous words of promise for the untried road;
Think, my soul, Who said them---God, Almighty God!
Words of strong assurance; words which bring heart-rest:
With such Presence with me can I be unblest?
"As I was with Moses so I am with thee"---
Statement more than promise, great with certainty;
Unknown though the future, untried though the way,
With His presence by me shall I go astray?
"As I was with Moses"---(meekest man on earth,
Yet whose meekness made him man of priceless worth)---
"So I am with thee"---thus, quite undismayed,
We may journey with Him-calm and unafraid.
"As I was with Moses---!" So, this word sublime,
Can afford rich comfort---in this later time;
We who own His PARDON may His PRESENCE know,
Drawing on His mighty POWER daily here below.
J. Danson Smith
Facing the facts
Some strong motivating principles can be drawn from this story:
1. We have adequate resources in our indwelling Lord. Every demand he makes on us he knows can only find its supply in him! We can know it, too. "He who calls us is faithful, and he will do it." (1 Thess. 5:14)
2. We can trust the Lord to do what he says he will do.
3. God does call us to a "Mission Impossible" to show us that he can "do far more than we can ask or even think-according to his power at work in us." (Eph. 3:20) He is the God of the Impossible, but with God "the impossible takes a little longer" because we are so slow to believe him.
How can we move men to action? The same way God moves us to action---by showing them from the Scripture what God wants and then appealing to them to believe it, in specific terms, on a personal level.
Turning Facts into Acts
In practice, this involves some approaches that dignify God's appeal.
1. Make a personal, direct appeal, man to man, instead of relying on the "volunteer" system. (I recall telling one young man that I believed he had the gift of teaching and I would like to help him develop the use of it. His eyes filled with tears at the thought that someone would be that concerned about his life and ministry.)
2. Convey the sense of value that God sets forth in saying that "the head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of you." (1 Cor. 12:21) Everyone has a valued place in the body, and it's God who says so! We need to give every member a sense of vital participation in the action of the body.
3. Give continuing expressions of encouragement and appreciation. No one wants to be treated like a piece of furniture! Love does not take people for granted.
4. Take the initiative to be available to people. Let them share your ministry. Take them with you. Use them in the pulpit. Give them exploratory opportunities. Help them discover their gifts.
5. Give ample training opportunities. Provide classes of instruction for every phase of life and ministry. Use the understudy approach and have an associate participating with you in teaching evangelism, visiting, and other ministry.
6. Don't be afraid to let others evaluate your performance. Use "critique" method to show them where they fail and how to do it better, but start by being vulnerable yourself.
7. Periodically review personnel. Consciously think through who is around and not functioning. Where does he or she fit in the body? What are their gifts and ministries? Publicize ministry opportunities to open the door for participation and exploration.
8. Maintain a continuing thread of teaching to encourage a walk of faith. This is the basis upon which people enter into a place of ministry. Apart from faith they'll never start!
9. Back up those who enter into a place of ministry. Don't desert them! A good shepherd doesn't walk off and leave his flock. Stay with them especially when they fail. Even then, Jesus is still victor! We can learn the greatest lessons from our failures. The Apostle Paul discovered this in his hour of great discouragement and recorded: "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads Win triumph.. ."(2 Cor. 2:14).
What motivates men?
It is not oversimplifying to say that ordinarily men are moved to action by the prospect of gaining something of value to them.
Why do so many people go for the "sure fling" of Las Vegas? Obviously they think they might hit the jackpot and take home a pocketful of cash. They may know the mathematical probabilities are all against them, and they certainly understand that the high-priced entertainers, fancy casinos, and lavish food and drink are not provided to make it pleasant while customers get rich at the expense of the house. But they always think they can beat the odds and break the bank.
I have a friend who blew $6800 in one gambling spree and has spent years trying to recover financially. Why did he do it? He was motivated by the prospect of gaining something he wanted---more money.
It is a sad situation in industry today that men are overpaid and under motivated. Money-motivation is all that many see in their jobs, so they and their unions keep grabbing for higher pay and shorter work weeks, usually not knowing how to make proper we of either the money or the leisure time they gain.
Our own experience could multiply examples of the non-existent or short-lived gains promised by worldly motivation. The Christian has it all over the world in this department. Just think, we can present the prospect of the greatest gain men's hearts could desire---the genuine fulfillment and eternal value of our personal partnership with Christ in his great redemptive work! Here is motivation that counts. Why don't we present it more clearly and attractively? Too often the world and the flesh win out with their shoddy and dead-end motivation, even over Christians.
Mere Christianity---or Discipleship?
Could it be we have missed the point of our Lord's chief motivating appeal? Often the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28 has been used as a charge to evangelize the world. Certainly this is valid, but a careful study of these verses reveals that evangelism is not its main thrust. A closer look reveals that making disciples is to be our aim. Evangelizing is only part of the process of discipling. Let's examine the words in detail.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matt. 28:l-20).
The structure of these verses is centered in the verb forms:
"go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching." But only one of these is a finite verb (or main verb) while the other three are participles, or participating verb forms, modifying and explaining the main verb action.
Literally, it says, "Going, make disciples, baptizing and teaching." The emphasis is clearly to make disciples. The first word,
"Go", is not a command, as our English translations would make it, but rather says, "going" (in effect---"I assume you're on your way").
The second participle, baptizing, needs some clarification of its meaning. It can refer to the ritual act of water baptism, but here it has far deeper import than mere ritual observance. All the other verb forms convey reality, not ritual, so it is logical to assume that this verb should do no less, in such an important context. The functional use of this word in Greek, as distinct from its ritual significance, means to introduce into a new relationship---in this case, the new relationship of having the resources of the Godhead made available.
The word name also requires some added understanding:
"---in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" means "into the resources of the Father, Son and Spirit." This is based on the idea that a person's name represents all that he is and has. "Open in the name of the law!" implies all the authority and resources of the government behind it.
Putting the passage all together, we would read it this way:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me; going therefore, make disciples of all nations, introducing them into all the resources of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
The Great Commission, Revised Version
The one command is to make disciples, and the emphasis is on our Lord's available resources from which to operate. Making disciples involves going, introducing into the total resources of the Godhead and teaching the truth of God. Thus, the Great Commission is far more than just evangelizing; it involves showing people the total resources available to them in the Godhead through teaching them the Word of God. A disciple is basically a "learner," one who has put himself under the discipline of the Lord Jesus and is willingly subject to all he commands. What he is to learn is how to use the total resources now made available to him since he is in Christ.
This brings into focus the final motivating factor. We must lead men to be disciples of Christ, responsive to his leadership---allowing him to be Lord. Thus, we should enlist without pressure, allowing men freedom to respond to the Lord Jesus, not just to us. We can thus help them to seek the clear call of God to their avenue of service for him. Our place and privilege is to encourage them to explore, expose them to opportunities of service, then to let them observe the results and respond to the Lord from their own hearts. It is amazing what happens when we do this. The Lord does call them and confirm his appointed sphere of service for them. And becoming his disciples, they learn to draw on the adequate spiritual capital of a totally sufficient God.