What matters more - what you do or why you do it?
C.S. Lewis writes about this question in his book “Mere Christianity.” He thinks that motivation matters. For example, if a person takes your seat on the train to be rude, that’s different than if a person takes your seat on the train because they didn’t know it was your seat. We would be inclined to be angry at person number one, and more understanding of person number two, even though they did exactly the same thing. Why would respond differently? Because of the difference in their motivations.
And if we expand that idea to apply to congregations, we might ask a similar question. Congregations do things; we do ministry - hospitality, worship, service, generosity, faith formation - and if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes the things we do become more important than the reasons to do them.
When we forget our reasons for doing what we do, our actions become empty and shallow. The things we do may have the very same result, but purpose begins to deteriorate. And when we do increasingly meaningless things, even if the results are very similar, our energy level decreases and we begin to burn out. Ultimately, we either stop doing them altogether, or do them begrudgingly and with a chip on our shoulder.
But it is possible to renew purpose, to reclaim the meaning behind our actions. We need to remember the “why” of our Christian discipleship. And having remembered and reaffirmed this “why,” suddenly we find our actions infused with meaning, purpose, and energy again. We may even be doing the very same things we’ve always done, but now they are a joy.
And so yes, what we do matters. But I think knowing why we do it may matter even more.