How Do You Lean?

The Lord has given you your work. He expects you each week to interview yourself, to find out how you are trading on your Lord’s goods. Are you putting to the tax your physical, mental, and spiritual powers in an effort to please the Lord, who desires you to accumulate talents by right use of those He has given you? Special Testimonies B, p.17

Although written to a young physician in 1903, the questions posed by co-founder Ellen White resonate for today’s leaders.

In his article, “Leadership Development from a Complexity Perspective,” Professor Richard E. Boyatzis from Case Western University, outlined that “desired change” is at the heart of leadership development. “The studies reviewed…show that adults will only develop characteristics of effective leaders if they want to be leaders. Many people engage in developmental activities to satisfy other people’s desires, not their own.” He then provides an example, “For instance, some pursue an MBA program to get the certificate of completion, not to change how they act.”*

The last line specifically speaks to everyone who has ever pursued anything of great value. Without a doubt, every person pursuing pastoral ministry (or a denominational executive) recognizes at some point, the question of motivation will surface fully. During a particular dark time in my doctoral work, the question pierced the night—“Why are you doing this?”

Change agents, rightfully so, will be challenged on this point by those late adapters (or laggards) in the organization. The pursuit of any level of change brings with it danger—and the danger will bring about the question of motivation. I had to wrestle, “Am I pursing my doctoral work in order to get a piece of paper?” Or, even now, I must ask myself, “Do I continue pursuing growth in my own life, relationships, study skills, etc., in order to get something external in return?”

For me, here is kind of an ultimate experience to assist in determining my own motivation. Prayerfully, I consider the question, “What if there were nothing external to this, would I still go through the darkness to move through it?” I sit and prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what emerges as that external variable at the endpoint is removed.

Let me suggest that the temptations Jesus faced at the front end of his public ministry struck right at the heart of this question. Three different approaches used by the enemy of his ministry and life sought to challenge his motivation. The question of motivation throughout his public ministry would ever be at the forefront of the assault. Motivation for ministry counts. I recently heard a pastor in a moment of personal discovery declare that his reason for being a pastor was because his father had been one. And now he found that reason insufficient to the challenges he faced. So, why do you pursue your own growth? Here is one final observation: the more external the reason, the less enduring the motivation. Or, to state it positively: the more internal the motivation, the more enduring the process. How do you lean?

John Grys is vice president for pastoral ministries in the Illinois Conference


* Boyatzis, Richard E. (2008). “Leadership Development from a Complexity Perspective,” Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Volume 6, No. 4, pp. 298-313.