Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series



When it comes to getting people motivated some religious leaders love to use fear, guilt and shame. However, fear, guilt and shame are only effective in motivating most people in the short run. Actually, the Bible says, "The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever puts his trust in the Lord is safe." Others use threats, intimidation or anger to motivate their people. The Bible says, "The anger of man does not bring about the righteousness of God." Instead of relying on extrinsic motivations, we should first discover an individual's best intrinsic motivations. A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.

Do not be surprised if members of some denominations accuse you of using psychological-babble. All truth is God's truth. Many reactionaries see motivation as a suspect enterprise, a pseudo-science. Some ultra conservatives think motivation talks are a carnal effort to use "secular psycho-babble" as a replacement for sound Biblical teaching. Learn how each person is motivated according to their individual norms. Some groups primarily use external motivations such as societal pressures to bring about their desired ends. For example, a student at our Nigerian seminary named Adamu, did not want to marry someone from his tribe. To his elders, Adamu's decision implied a total rejection of their societies' values. The elders warned him that he must comply with the traditional values or he would be considered persona-non-grata. Very few men in Africa are willing to refuse their tribal elders' wishes for fear of the penalties. Each young man is expected to follow the specific cultural norms of courtship. When a young man marries he is expected to treat his wife, children and extended family members according to his own tribal conventions. If the young man fails to live up to these culturally normal behaviors, he risks alienation. Marriage is seen as a way of helping the whole tribe preserve itself and its cherished values.

Eventually, Adamu married to please his father who had already paid the bride price for his recently deceased senior brother. The father could not refund the money since he had already used it to purchase a corn grinding machine. Adamu married to save his father from shame. Anything less would have meant alienation from the extended family unit. The reason many parents do not lead their children in the right direction is because the parents aren't going that way themselves.

Many western societies are not group-oriented and they value individual freedom of choice. In western civilizations each person is given the liberty to choose whom they would like to marry or to remain single. Individual freedom is much more important in the western cultures based on one's unique education, family background, and community of friends.

Some people are able to overcome severe handicaps because of their internal motivations. In 1954, Roger Bannister, having one leg shorter than the other, claimed he would be the first man to break the four-minute mile. After years of painful training, Roger ran the first sub four-minute mile in the time of 3 minutes 59.7 seconds. The more amazing part of his life story is not what he accomplished, but how he affected others through his faith. Within one year, 24 other men also broke the four-minute mile mark. Today, the barrier is no longer a significant obstacle as every year thousands break the mark. When people saw that a handicapped man like Roger Bannister could do it, they figured that any able-bodied man could do the same. Faith opens the door of limitless possibilities for motivated people ready to take risks. The best kind of motivation depends on several key factors. Some refer to the three R's of motivation. The right rewards, right relationships, and right reasons. These three elements are expressed in the following areas:

a. Social-Cultural Values

b. Safety and security concerns

c. Economic-financial considerations

d. Individual and Family felt, real and perceived needs

e. Spiritual values and beliefs

f. Educational, mental, and psychological needs

g. Entertainment and emotional needs

h. Interpersonal relational needs

i. Sexual needs

j. Vocational and ministry needs

k. Self-esteem and actualization of potential needs

l. Recognition and human worth needs

m. Physical needs

n. Conditioned needs from our experiences and backgrounds

Learn the significance of each of the above factors in your group's social structures. Educate yourself about the educational levels and how the various levels of status affect social interactions. Perhaps you can begin by noticing how men and women relate to one another in different social settings using particular motivations.

Observe how people pursue their goals, expectations and ideals. One tribe in Nigeria refused to accept Christian values because they were afraid of offending their ancestral spirits. When the Yohanna, the evangelist, warned them that this meant they would spend eternity in hell, they had a big meeting with their elders to decide what action to take. After a week of vigorous debate among the elders, the chief called the evangelist and said, "We have made our decision. We have decided that all of our tribe will go to hell." The Yohanna was shocked and said, "Why?" The chief replied, "We are afraid that if we accepted Christ as our Savior we will all go to heaven and that would mean being separated from our ancestors forever - which is not acceptable in our traditional ways of thinking!" People make the worst decisions out of fear. Learn the best ways of illustrating truth in each group. Some societies illustrate truth with a negative warning system. Other groups illustrate truth through a positive role model. Paul the apostle was able to adapt his teaching to each culture depending on examples they were accustomed to. Try to learn the language of your audience. Learn the expressions which best convey their values in a comfortable and colloquial manner. Communicate with the symbols, objects and stories that the people are familiar with. It is always a good principle to teach unknown things by teaching from what is familiar. Learn the best ways of applying truth to your group. Each society has normal ways that they make applications to their beliefs. Some cultures make decisions on the basis of what will please the men in authority. Other cultures make value judgments based on what they feel will benefit their immediate family. Some societies allow each individual to determine how to make choices based upon their own long-term retirement goals. Many groups base decisions upon what is most popular among the majority. Every group and individual is conditioned to make choices based on what will bring the greatest benefits and the least amount of hardships. The Bible encourages us to love our neighbors and our enemies - probably because they are generally the same people.

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