Ingathering: Motivations

David H. Sharpe appeals to pastors to examine the methods they use to motivate church members.

David H. Sharpe is pastor of the First Seventh-day Adventist church in Birmingham, Alabama.


In a special Week of Prayer session I asked a group of young people whether anything in the church particularly irritated them. A 16-year-old girl had bitter words concerning her Ingathering experience.

She came from a large church that depended heavily on the youth to raise its goal. Trips and other rewards were used effectively to spur the young people to raise the goal quickly. "Almost all my Ingathering was motivated by a desire for personal reward," lashed out the young lady. "I was 'used' by the adults to do something that they didn't want to do themselves." The others in the group agreed.

Although much, if not most, of what these young people said should be dis counted because of their emotions during the discussion, nevertheless we must recognize an element of truth in their comments. Human nature being what it is, personal benefit will almost always be a stronger motivation for service than love for the Lord. Church members, old, as well as young, respond to appeals to selfish desires.

This assertion can be easily demonstrated. Have you ever held an evangelistic series in which a family Bible was offered to the person bringing the most visitors? Or have you given a beautiful picture to those attending for three successive evenings? Did your attendance increase? Of course it did. Naturally, our church members love the Lord and want their friends to attend evangelistic meetings, but their love for the Lord takes a sudden upward surge when personal benefit enters the picture.

Is there an essential difference be tween the conference's offering a gift certificate or a discount for youth camp to young people who raise a certain amount of Ingathering funds and a pas tor's offering awards to those who bring guests to his evangelistic meetings? If these practices are legitimate motivations for the Christian church why not offer our members five dollars for bringing five guests? Why not pay them, from church funds, a percentage of the In gathering amount they raise? Is not the difference between these proposals and some of our current practices merely quantitative rather than qualitative?

The answer, it seems to me, is to admit that these are not the proper motivations for Christians. No doubt, as we look back on our experience, we each can see that we have often appealed to the wrong motives in enlisting our members for service. We look with disgust upon people who use others to accomplish their own selfish purposes. But do we approach the same thing when we appeal to selfish motives in our people? Are we not "using" our members by consciously or unconsciously arousing un-Christlike motivations?

One sentence from Testimonies, volume 2, pages 510, 511, forever answers the ancient question, "Does the end justify the means?" "It is not the great results we attain, but the motives from which we act, that weigh with God." Success in attaining goals and meeting quotas is wonderful; however, success through wrong motivation could well be at the expense of the spirituality and even the eternal salvation of ourselves and some of our members.

Surely our work is more than just reaching goals and accomplishing certain objectives, as worthy as these are. Our work is to assist Heaven in restoring the image of God in man. The Ingathering program and all other campaigns of the church should be conducted in a way that will help our members, young and old, to become more like Jesus.

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David H. Sharpe is pastor of the First Seventh-day Adventist church in Birmingham, Alabama.

October 1978

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