Every member of your congregation is driven by something, and you need to discover what those forces are in order to better disciple those under your care. Ultimately, you want to lead each member to be driven by God’s agenda—to live a purpose-driven life.
Most dictionaries define the verb drive as “to guide, to control, or to direct.” In your congregation, there are some driven by a problem, a pressure, or a deadline, and others driven by a painful memory, a haunting fear, or an unconscious belief.
There are hundreds of circumstances, values, and emotions that drive people’s lives, and understanding what’s driving them is a key to reaching them.
Here are five common “drives”:
Some people are driven by guilt — They spend their entire lives running from regrets or hiding their shame. Guilt-driven people are manipulated by memories. They allow their past to control their future, believing their past mistakes to be bigger than God. They often unconsciously punish themselves by sabotaging their own success. When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God’s presence, and God said, “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:12 NIV). That describes most people today—wandering through life without a purpose.
Some people are driven by resentment — They hold on to their hurts and never get over them. Instead of releasing their pain through forgiveness, they rehearse it over and over in their minds. Some resentment-driven people “clam up” and internalize their anger while others “blow up” and explode. Both responses are unhealthy and unhelpful. Resentment always hurts you more than it does the person you resent. While your offender has probably forgotten the offense and gone on with life, you continue to stew in your pain, perpetuating the past.
Some people are driven by fear — These fears may be the result of a traumatic experience, unrealistic expectations, growing up in a high-control home, or even genetic predisposition. Regardless of the cause, fear-driven people often miss great opportunities because they’re afraid to venture out. Instead they play it safe, avoiding risks and trying to maintain the status quo.
Some people are driven by materialism — Their desire to acquire becomes the whole goal of their lives. This drive to always want more is based on the misconceptions that having more will make me “more happy,” more important, and more secure – but all three ideas are untrue. Possessions only provide temporary happiness. Because things do not change we eventually become bored with them and then want a newer, bigger, better version.
Some people are driven by the need for approval — They allow the expectations of parents or spouses or children or teachers or friends to control their lives. Many adults are still trying to earn the approval of unpleasable parents. Others are driven by peer pressure, always worried by what others might think. Unfortunately, those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it. I don’t know all the keys to success, but one key to failure is to try to please everyone. Being controlled by the opinions of others is a guaranteed way to miss God’s purposes for your life. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24 NLT).
There are other forces that can drive people’s lives but all lead to the same dead end: unused potential, unnecessary stress, and an unfulfilled life.
Understanding these forces will help you look beyond the actions that frustrate you to see the real need in these people’s lives. Many of the problems they face—and you will face as a church leader—are caused by people driven by the wrong things. We need to lovingly look past the problems, and call each church member to reach the fullness for which God has shaped them.
As a pastor, one of the greatest gifts you can offer is showing people how to live lives guided, controlled, and directed by God. Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them—not success, wealth, fame, or pleasure.
Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction, and events without reason. In the Bible, many different people expressed this hopelessness.
Isaiah complained, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing” (Isaiah 49:4 NIV).
Job said, “My life drags by—day after hopeless day” (Job 7:6 TLB) and “I give up; I am tired of living. Leave me alone. My life makes no sense” (Job 7:16 GNT).
The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose.