Joy Fueled - Guilt or Joy?
The following excerpt from chapter three of Joy Fueled is posted by permission from co-author Dr. Kent Smith from Abilene Christian University. Posted November 6, 2021
The gospel of knowledge and duty.
Some years ago, at a large conference, a speaker shared lots of information about unreached people groups around the world – the billions who do not yet know Christ. He reminded everyone of the great commission in Matthew 28. (Most of us have been reminded of the Great Commission dozens of times before.)
Then the speaker began snapping his fingers as if counting time. Tears filled his eyes as he implored the audience:
“Every second, thousands of people are dying without knowing Christ.”
Snap. Snap. Snap.
What are you going to do about it?
Snap. Snap. Snap.
The large room fell silent as he continued to snap. Many in the audience were crying. They appeared deeply moved and ready to sign up for the tremendous task of reaching their generation for Christ, no matter the cost.
Perhaps you have heard sermons like that or attended conferences with this kind of presentation: 6,500 unreached people groups… 2.5 billion people never heard the name of Jesus… our evangelism and church planting aren’t working… we are debtors to Christ… no amount of sacrifice will compare to what he has done.
Who could fail to be moved by this presentation? This kind of motivation? We call this the “gospel of knowledge and duty.” The more knowledge we have, the more we will feel obligated to serving, and therefore, the more we will serve.
Yet we have several questions.
1. Is this approach effective in a long run? Thousands or even millions of people have been motivated to ministry by this type of presentation. But, is it really good “fuel”?
2. Is this approach healthy? Does it result in emotionally healthy Christians?
3. Is it biblical? Is this the kind of motivation we see in the Bible?
Effective fuel? Healthy View? Biblical fuel?
As we have said, the gospel of knowledge and duty can sound very spiritual, but we contend that these are actually inadequate types of fuel. When knowledge and duty are all we have, they are not really good news (the meaning of gospel) because, as Galatians 3:21-20 tell us, in the long run, this knowledge and duty cannot produce righteousness. Only a relationship with Jesus can do that. Knowledge and duty produce guilt and obligation, which can be effective at starting an engine but, unfortunately, this fuel, so to speak, corrodes overtime.
These motivations do produce activity. However, there’s a terrible price to pay when a person does not mature beyond these motivations into others more sustainable. The results are Christians who are not only exhausted, burned out and disillusioned but also thwarted in their emotional maturity and relational knowledge of God.
Leaders are drawn into ministry for many reasons. Often a dramatic presentation of the great spiritual need in the world and our obligation or duty based on the Great Commission plays a significant part. Again, this conviction is not a bad thing. However, if guilt and obligation continue to be the main motivations, the results are not good. These things do not teach us what to do with our heavy emotions that come with life and ministry - emotions like grief, anger, discouragement, hopelessness and despair. Guilt and duty are not capable of helping us through these difficult times.
The shocking statistics below from one survey: (https://www.soulshepherding.org/pastors-under-stress/) illustrate the long-term results in the lives of pastors facing high levels of stress without an adequate joy base.
• 75% of pastors report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed”
• 90% feel fatigued and worn out every week
• 80% will not be in the ministry 10 years later
• 91% have experienced some form of burn out in ministry
• Seminary-trained pastors average only five years in church ministry
Even more grievous than these results are the destructive behaviors that come as a result of ministering with these ineffectual motivations. In our combined years of ministry alone, we have seen numerous pastors and/or their spouses end up in inappropriate sexual relationships or substance abuse in an attempt to numb the destructive feelings they do not know how to handle. Many lives, marriages and whole communities are destroyed when this happens. We are convinced that these statistics and experiences would be different if the people of God understood the danger of living guilt-based or duty-driven compared to the amazing power of living joy-fueled…
Unforced Rhythms of Grace
Jesus says it this way in Matthew 11:28-29 MSG:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
In the LK10 community, we are committed to helping people learn the unforced rhythms of grace by walking and working with Jesus. The word unforced is particularly important. We think this is what it means to be joy fueled. Instead of forcing ourselves to do and be, we show our weakness, our exhaustion, our true feelings and we let Jesus meet us there, hold us, invite us into his joy and pull us through. We think this is a radical departure from the ways that Christians have often been motivated in the past, just as it was a radical departure for the Jewish leaders when Jesus said it 2,000 years ago.
About the Authors: The saying "Good things come in threes" could not be more accurate than when it comes to John, Toni, and Kent. Each a leader in their own right, they have decades of ministry experience between them. The rhythms of attention, grace and quiet are the air they breathe. John- the treasure hunter, Toni - the training warrior, and Kent - the visionary community developer, come forth with one voice to reveal the treasures of being joy fueled.