Newbold College

Department of Theological Studies




Research Paper

Presented in the Fulfilment

 of the Requirements of the Course

BIPS 235 Pastoral Psychology



 Allan Falk

 April 2005

I.    INTRODUCTION  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


II.    THE UNMOTIVATED CHURCH  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


III.    PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


IV.  MOTIVATION  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


V.   MANIPULATION / ACTUALIZATION  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


VI.   PAULS MOTIVATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


VII.  SUGGESTIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


IIX.  CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


IX.  BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .




        If someone examines the life and actions of Christianity in present Western Europe, it is easily discovered that there is a lack of motivation concerning the great commission Jesus Christ gave to his followers in Matt 28, 18 – 20[1]. It is the purpose of this paper to suggest possible ways or methods which can motivate Christians, so that they really respond actively to the commission.

        To accomplish this task, a few psychological theories will bee mentioned, and integrated with theology. From the Biblical narrative, this paper will mainly use the experience of Paul, and try to suggest useful ideas for modern Christianity.



        Within the Adventist Church in Western Europe, it is suggested that no more than one to three percent of the members are actively involved in mission[2]. Other Christian denominations might have similar situations. What we experience is actually, that many members are no longer disciples[3].

        The facts are obvious, in some areas the membership is declining, and so is the motivation. How can we make members understand the real meaning of discipleship, so that they will wish to become disciples and not only members?      



        Having motivation for mission in mind, when I approached the three main schools of psychology, I found the greatest bearing within behavioural and humanistic thinking.

        Looking at Behavioural psychology Ivan Pavlov’s experiments resulting in the theory of classical conditioning, B. F. Skinner’s operant conditioning and aversive conditioning might help us explain a few issues. Aversive conditioning or learned helplessness might explain way many Christians have given up on mission. Too many failures might have taught them to stay away from mission.

        Taking the theory of operant conditioning into consideration it might be suggested that Christians doing mission have not received carrots enough. Maybe a lack of converts, or benefits for the ones doing mission, have had some impact.

        Whoever the fact that a variable interval of reinforcement is the best way for maintaining a behaviour, might suggest to us that the problem has to be found else where. If permanent reinforcement is not the ultimate solution for Christians doing mission, then we might have to ask our self.  What is lacking from within the Christians themselves since they are not motivated?

        John B. Watson the father of Behaviourism denied any role for mental involvement concerning behaviour or motivation[4]. This standpoint is very difficult to harmonize with the Christian notion of calling.

        Looking at Humanistic psychology, Maslow’s theory concerning motivation gives us ground for some of our analysis. In his main theory Maslow connects our motivation with our needs; he explains it as a process in form of a circle including need, goal, act and satisfaction. The result of this is however, that when the need is gratified, the motivation is no longer there. This might be correct concerning the more basic needs in life, but when it comes to the need of spreading the Gospel, I find it impossible to accept. Because if it was so, there would not be a permanent motivating factor behind the mission of a Christian.

        Even Maslow identified this permanent motivating factor, he called it growth motivation[5]. He explained it as a line instead of a circle. The line includes need, act and goal. In this process the need is never satisfied. This theory portrays the experience of a Christian with a mission in life very well.        



        Analysing motivation concerning mission within the Christian church, I want to suggest that it should bee seen as a task of motivating individuals. The desire of spreading the Gospel most rest within every heart of the congregation if the church is to be effectively motivated.  We have already concluded that reinforcement is not the most effective way of motivating a Christian for mission, instead the motivation should come from a never satisfied need within the individual. If this is the case, then the most important part of motivation for mission is an affair between God and each individual Christian. This is in harmony with good theology, saying that each person is responsible or accountable to God for his own acts or missing acts. Real motivated people are acting within a freedom of choice.

        There is however still a challenge for church leaders, creating an environment where the basic needs for the members are fulfilled, and the appropriate reinforcements are put in place. Adding all the motivating factors, will hopefully increase the result.


        Manipulation and actualization are two opposites, and most people use both. A Christian leader should however try to be more of an actualizer than a manipulator. Manipulation is something even very young children learn, they are not very old before they try to manipulate or control their parents. This science of manipulation can also be very tempting for pastors and church leaders, when thy want the best for the church and its members. Every time the temptation of manipulating other people pops up, it might be wise to remember, that manipulating others is actually taking control over them, and controlling others is dangerous, because the responsibility for the actions involved falls back on the one controlling. Another negative result of manipulation is that everything falls apart as soon as the manipulator disappears.

        The challenge for all church leaders is to become good actualizers, creating the right environment for the members. Helping them to control themselves, towards the goals set by the Holy Spirit. Making it possible for them to be motivated and develop in their different ministries[6].


        Taking a closer look at the kind of motivation which lays behind a real Christian’s effort in mission, I have found it appropriate to take a look at Paul. Paul showed a great deal of motivation both before his conversion and after. He was the type of person, who followed his calling diligently.

        Even a small study of Paul’s mission will reveal that he was in what Maslow called growth motivation. Paul’s need was never satisfied; he himself expressed it this way in Phil 3, 14. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.  Maybe I should risk this statement. “A Christian must be a minister.” At least Maslow wrote in Motivation and Personality. “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”[7]Maybe a real Christian most do mission?

        Having studied Maslow’s theories about needs and motivation, including the principle saying that the lower needs must be satisfied before humans can think about the higher needs, I find that there are some very interesting aspects in the narratives concerning Paul’s life and mission. Paul himself clearly states that his basic needs were often not satisfied.  In 2 Cor 11, 22 – 27 he counts all the times he has been punished by beating, been insecure on journeys or even been starving[8]. It seems clear, that Paul was not waiting for his physiological, safety or belonging needs to be fulfilled before he was ready to minister to people.

        Comparing Paul’s unselfish struggle to reach other people with the Gospel, with Jesus unselfish love for people in need of salvation or just simple encouragement, I am about to suggest that, when somebody is in the business of channeling Gods grace to others, then they can not think about their own needs.

        Paul himself is commenting on the reason for his eager concerning mission in Rom 1, 14. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Let me interpret it this way. Paul had received righteousness from God by faith, which he had not deserved. There for he was placed in eternal debt to God[9]. Or put in other words, Gods love towards Paul had created a deep love in Paul towards God. That love expressed it self in Paul’s struggle to reach other people with Gods message of grace.



        My studies of this subject has led me to believe, that the greatest and most important part of motivation for mission comes from within the Christian him / herself, but there are of course still a lot of things the local pastor or church elder can do to enhance the motivation for mission in their environment. Let me suggest some areas:

1)      When people are baptized into our churches, they should be made to understand the full meaning of their baptism. Baptism is not only to membership, but it is to discipleship. Jesus said in Matt 4, 19. "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Jesus has promised to make us fish people.

2)      The church leaders can take care of the need of safety. If the church is well structured, and members know that they will be given support whenever they need it, they will be more eager to try out new ideas. This might be one of the most basic needs.

3)      Then the need of belonging should be cared for. It motivates people, when they feel that they are valued members of a team. This is a challenge for leaders of any department in the church. It should be made clear to all members, that they have their identity and value not only in the local church, but in Jesus Christ, who called Christians to give the world the last message of grace.

4)      Then leaders can take care of the esteem need. Often people do not get any feed back when they have given their services to the church. Everybody needs affirmation being it positive or negative. It builds our self – esteem and helps us to improve or develop.

5)      It is important that good leaders challenge their members. Everybody needs purpose and meaning in their life. Challenge is a vital part of a growth motivation process.[10]

6)      Church leaders and members should always remember to come face to face with the mightiest catalyst in the universe. Gods grace.[11]



        This study about motivation for mission has revealed, that the science of psychology can actually contribute quite a lot to the understanding of why Christians react the way they do. What is happening when they are motivated, and what is missing when they are not?

        However the study of Paul’s motivation for mission, reveals that there are more to the motivation of a Christian, than psychology can explain. Only good theology can explain what happens when a human falls in love with his creator and saviour.

        It is very essential for the positive development of the mission, that church’s leaders clearly understand the difference between manipulation and actualization.

        Even if a major part of a Christian’s motivation is seen as a growth process relating to challenge or calling, church leaders can add much to motivation of church members by taking care of their basic needs.

        The more essential conclusion is, that the most important part of motivation for mission, depends on the relationship each individual member has with God, resulting in either  passive membership in a church or real discipleship. According to Maslow’s theory real disciples most do mission.




Adams Roy, The Motivation of His Grace,


Art, Design and Psychoanalysis in

Atkinson J.W., An Introduction To Motivaation, (NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1964).

Baumgartner Erich W., Re-Visioning Adventist Mission in Europe,

        (MI: Andrews University Press, 1998).

Beck Robert C., Motivation Theories & Principles, (NJ: Upper Saddle River, 2000).

Deffinbaugh Bob, Paul’s Motivation for Ministry, (

Drury Sharon, Motivation Theories, (

Maslow Abraham H., MOTIVATION AND PERSONALITY, (NY: Harper & Row, 1970).

McDonough Reginald M., KEYS TO EFFECTIVE MOTIVATION, (TN: Broadman Press,1979).

McMartin Jim, PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY, (London: SAGA Publications, 1995).

Ruthven J. Roy, Not just membership: Called to discipleship, in Ministry June 2004

psychology[1] Matt 28, 18 – 20. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

[2] Baumgartner Erich W., Re-Visioning Adventist Mission in Europe,

        (MI: Andrews University Press, 1998) p. 184.

[3] Ruthven J. Roy, Not just membership: Called to discipleship, in Ministry June 2004 p. 16.

[4] Beck Robert C., Motivation Theories & Principles, (NJ: Upper Saddle River, 2000) p. 25.

[5] McDonough Reginald M., KEYS TO EFFECTIVE MOTIVATION, (TN: Broadman Press,1979) p. 74.

[6] McDonough Reginald M., KEYS TO EFFECTIVE MOTIVATION,  p. 37.

[7] Art, Design and Psychoanalysis in, p. 1.

[8] 2 Cor 11, 22 – 27 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman-- I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.         Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters;         in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked.

[9] Deffinbaugh Bob, Paul’s Motivation for Ministry, ( p. 5.

[10] McDonough Reginald M., KEYS TO EFFECTIVE MOTIVATION,  p. 80.

[11] Adams Roy, The Motivation of His Grace,

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