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First Things First. How Asking ‘Why?’ and ‘Who?’ Questions Helps us Do Ministry Better

Simon Sinek has famously and helpfully challenged organisations to work on their ‘Why’, before they decide ‘How’ and then ‘What’. That is, an organisation needs to know why it exists, and to keep that conviction and passion central:  how they achieve their goal, and what they do to achieve their goal flow from why they exist. ‘Know why, then How, then What’. That is, know ‘Why’ you exist, then know ‘How’ you should achieve your goals, and then you will know ‘What’ you need to do to achieve them. He points out that if you just focus on the ‘What’, you may lose sight of the ‘Why’.

An organisation needs to know why it exists, and to keep that conviction and passion central: ‘Know Why, then How, then What’.

AMP provides a notable example. It began as a ‘mutual provident society’, to provide for the welfare of its contributing members. Its aim was to provide a measure of financial security to poor people. Yet it became a victim of its own success, and has lost sight of its original ‘Why’ with dramatic and contemptible consequences.

A friend of mine is using this very productively in his church. When encouraging people to take part in an activity, he reminds them of the ‘Why’, not just the ‘What, ‘When’ and ‘Where’. It works this way. Don’t just encourage people to take part in an activity [prayer meeting, Bible study, evangelism, training, etc] by giving them the details [‘on Tuesday night in the hall’], but remind them of the ‘Why’ [‘to pray to God who loves to hear and answer our prayers’; ‘to encourage each other to listen to God together as he speaks to us from the Bible’; ‘to help people to come to know the Lord Jesus’, etc].

It is good to use the same priority in our daily activities of ministry. When we are busy and under pressure, we tend to focus too much on ‘What do I have to do?’ When do I have to do it?’ and ‘Where do I need to be’! A moment’s reflection on ‘Why’ will enliven our ministries. ‘I am doing this ministry to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ’. ‘I am caring for this person to share the consolation and comfort of God, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort and consolation’. ‘I am helping to prepare the bride of Christ for her marriage to her husband’. ‘I am making a disciple, and the Lord Jesus is with me as I do it’. ‘I am using my gift to build up the body of Christ’. ‘I am doing this ministry in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God my Father through him’.   

A moment’s reflection on ‘Why’ will enliven our ministries. ‘I am doing this ministry to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ’. ‘I am caring for this person to share the consolation and comfort of God, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort and consolation’…

We should do the same in our daily lives with God.

‘I am living this day in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God my Father through him’. ‘Today I am living for the glory of God, presenting myself to him as a living sacrifice’. ‘I am using God’s gifts for God’s glory’.

And even better to turn these reflections into prayers:

‘I am doing this ministry to bring glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ’. ‘Help me to care for this person and share your consolation and comfort, Father of mercies, and God of all comfort and consolation’. ‘Lord Jesus help me prepare your bride for you’. ‘Lord Jesus, be with me as I work to make this person your disciple,’ ‘Lord Jesus I am living this day in your name, giving thanks to God my Father through you’. ‘Today God, I am living for your glory, and presenting myself to you as a living sacrifice’. ‘Help me use your gifts for your glory’.

An Still Deeper Question: ‘Who?’

However the Bible urges us to ponder  an even deeper and more significant question, and that is ‘Who?’ That is, who am I, and who are these people with whom I am living and working, and who are the people whom we are serving? For God has not made us machines, automatons, but human beings made in his image, and each one of us a unique individual. And God is more concerned with who we are than what we do. And in God’s economy, what we do is radically shaped by who we are.

God is more concerned with who we are than what we do. And in God’s economy, what we do is radically shaped by who we are.

Individuals, churches, and people in ministry need to focus firstly on ‘Who’ they are, then ‘Why’ they exist, and then on ‘How’ they want to live, and then on ‘What’, Where’, and ‘When’ they do it! If we focus too much on what we do, we may miss the point, become distracted or confused, and damage ourselves and others.  Who? … Why? … How? … and then What? When? and Where? That’s the right order!

Who? … Why? … How? … and then What? When? and Where? That’s the right order!

You need to be a wise person to have wise purposes, to know how to live wisely, to do and say wisdom. And you need a wise heart to be a wise person. Jesus tells us that ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matt 12:34). All that we say and do flows from our hearts. Our lives, attitudes, actions and words, what we do and don’t do, what we say and don’t say, reveal our hearts. We tend to focus on what we do, or how we do it. We rarely reflect on why we do it, and even more importantly, who am I, the person who is doing or saying it!  Foolish words, foolish deeds, foolish ministry, and foolish lives come from foolish hearts. May God in his mercy give all of us ‘a heart of wisdom’ (Ps 90:12).

In my next post we’ll talk more about what the Bible has made us and how that should affect the way we think about ourselves. In the meantime, here is a prayer to pray about ourselves and our lives:


Who Am I?

Whoever I am, Lord, you know me, and I am yours. (Dietrich Bonnhoeffer, “Who am I?”)

Whoever I am…
  • You created me in your image, and breathed into me the breath of life.
  • You know of what I am made, you remember that I am but dust.
  • You own me, for you have created, chosen, redeemed, and adopted me in Christ.
  • You know and understand me, for you made me, love me, and care for me.
  • You forgive and accept me, as you make me clean by the blood of Christ.
  • You have dealt with the sins, regrets, mistakes and failures of my past life and ministry.
  • You have made me a temple of your Holy Spirit, who dwells within me.
  • You work all things for good for those who love you and are called according to your purpose.
Whoever I am…
  • Through the Holy Spirit you are transforming me into the image of your Son.
  • Though my outer nature is wasting away, you are renewing my inner nature every day.
  • Through these slight momentary afflictions you are working an eternal weight of glory.
  • Through our trials you are proving the genuineness of our faith, for your glory and honour.
Whoever I am…
  • I wonder at your grace, compassion, kindness, faithfulness and love.
  • I repent of my sins and my sinfulness, and claim your forgiveness through Christ.
  • I ask you to help me put to death the works of the flesh, and bring forth in me the fruit of the Spirit.
  • I ask you to sanctify me and make me useful in your service.
  • I offer myself to you today as a living sacrifice, to live for your glory.
Whoever I am…
  • You receive me and my daily sacrifice of myself, in your mercy.
  • You prepare me to do good works, and prepare good works for me to do.
  • You use me and my ministry for your good purposes.
  • You know me, and I am yours.
Whoever I am…
  • You are worthy of all glory, honour, praise, and worship.

Photo: pexels.com

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