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So You Want Passion?
Here It Is!!

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div, M.S.A.

Number 236

 
What Happened To Passion?
 
So you feel you "shot your wad." You've given the ministry all you got. Now, after further reflection, you are resigned to carry on in "Same ole--same ole" mode.
 
What happened to the passion? What happened to the unquenchable fire, the burning drive, the exuberant energies?
 
No, people around you may or may not have noticed. Pastors, of all professions, are keenly aware of perceptions and facades. You don't want to let out the "big secret." But your passion "just ain't there no more."
 
Where Passion Went
 
Greg Morris, editor of Leadership Dynamics Website, listed four reasons why leaders lack "Passion."
1. Routine.  We have allowed something precious to become familiar. We have
adopted a "Been there - Done that" attitude regarding ministry and
leadership.

2. Acceptance and approval.  Passion both draws and repels people. Some are
attracted to the clarity of focus while others are threatened by it. In our
desire to be liked, we have sometimes turned down our "heat" to an
acceptable level. We have replaced passion with a description of passion.

3. Apathy increases with age.  We cannot prevent the march of time, but we
can prevent hardening of the spiritual arteries. Apathy is not a matter of
the mind as much as it is an issue of the heart.

4. We have no purpose beyond ourselves.  We have lost our vision and have
failed to see the big picture as it relates to God's kingdom.

But There's More!!!
 
There are other reasons for lack of passion, too.
 
5. Tenure: After a number of years, even decades, in the same ministry one can become "bored." If a ministry cannot bring forth new challenges or if the pastor cannot energize new challenges for a congregation, the tasks will become even more tasking.
 
6. Habituation: Activities which, at inception, were passionately energizing, have became routinized. They are habits. Having been effectively assimilated into the life and ministry of the congregation, the things that have given explosive fire have been reduced to a steady simmer.
 
7. Fear: A passionate ministry is an exciting ministry. But it is also a risky ministry. To minister with passion is to risk fear and failure.
 
8. Risk: Why burn with passion when everything has gone so well? Why "Rock the Boat?" and put the result of endless hours of sweat, toil and tears at risk?
 
9. Personal Transformation: There's no doubt about it. The pastoral ministry is a ministry of transformation. Ironically, the ones most transformed in pastoral ministry are often not the parishioners but the pastors. One might call it "God's little joke" on pastors. Though often related to age and maturity, it is often related to the often painful transitional crises of life.
 
10. Pain-Avoidance: Pastors and others who have been through intense congregational conflict often develop protective mechanisms to endure.
 
11. Change of Calling: The Holy Spirit gives--and takes--away spiritual gifts as He chooses. Amid rather surprising circumstances or ever so slowly circumstances the calling you have passionately enjoyed begins to transform in ways not suited for your giftedness. Or, on the other hand, through the same circumstances you might be led to a new horizon of giftedness in another area of giftedness. This area may be new, cutting-edge, and unprecedented. Or it may be the resurrection of a gift not fully nurtured and utilized from adolescence and early adulthood...before you were laden with the expectations of ministry.
 
12. Severe Short-Term Conflict: When conflict occurs, one of the of the greatest blessings is that it occurs and resolves in a short-term. Short-term, severe conflict can require dramatic amounts of emotional, physical and spiritual energy to maintain the ministry. Energy reserves used to maintain the congregation during conflict may often already be running low as the conflict may have resulted from the results of enormous amounts of energy and passion in the stretching out and achieving of the vision. The result is obvious. You're tired, burned-out, fatigued and feeling a sense of listlessness and purposelessness.
 
13. On-going Attenuated Conflict: Nothing frustrates like the constant drip of a nighttime faucet. It's not flowing bad enough to get up and fix it. Yet it's nagging enough to keep you from getting a good nights sleep. When attempts to fix the leak fail, the frustrating result is "drip, drip, drip." Attenuated ongoing conflict in a congregation wears out the passion. Fixes don't work. Vision casting falls on deaf ears. No matter how many things and how many times you try, it's like trying to cut down a tree with the blunt end of an axe.
 
14.  Serial Failure: You went to the seminar, bought the tapes, purchased the materials and trained the leaders. But time and time again the "magic" programs which were "guaranteed" to work in your church didn't. Since it was your program, guess who gets blamed?
 
Rick Warren once joked about how they develop new ministry programs. Paraphrased they just keep on trying--sometimes desperately--to make something work. When it does, they put it in a neat little package and appear as "experts." Rick's candidness is healthy. When congregational ministry is given to God, it is freeing to give God the results.
 
15. Critical Spirit: Legalistic congregations are marked by their critical spirit. This spirit enslaves, drains, shackles and extinguishes every idea, energy, and innovation suggested. It just wont work, they say. Given their critical, un-supportive spirit of those claiming this, their words are less of a prophecy than a challenge. What they often really mean is "It won't work...over my dead body. If it does, it will be your body that will be approaching room temperature!" Either way, win or lose, the critical spirit will work on your passion. It will almost undoubtedly try your energies.
 
16. Avoidance of Accountability: Having too much freedom without accountability can contribute to one's lack of focus. Certainly this is not to advocate and heavy sense of accountability without joy, freedom and generous affirmation. But a little nudge is not a bad thing for the church or for us. It keeps us focused on our main objective.
 
17. Leadership Vacuum: No matter what the size church leadership is always an important issue. Permeating organizational passion comes from multiple leaders in concert with the same sense of vision, determination and commitment. The more leaders displaying these characteristics, the more passion overtakes the organization.
 
One of the most inexplicable phenomena of ministry is how God allows drastic leadership changes, usually involving the best leaders. As a further frustration, these drastic leadership transitions occur just on the brink of major implementation of a cutting edge initiative. Several other things occur concurrently.
 
First, there may not be a deep enough "bench" of leaders to sustain the building momentum;
Second, the absence of leaders may result in an absence of at-hand support to defend the pastor from an extreme vulnerability to antagonists. If change energizes antagonists and conflict, the greatest energy of conflict will be on the eve of implementation of the new.
 
18. Low-Change Tolerance: "Been there, done that!" some say after the conflict. "I won't do that again!" Change can create a sense of bitterness. The price exacted may have been extraordinary high, much higher than expected. However, "once burned, twice shy" applies in many cases of pastoral leadership. The roller coaster may have been too much of a ride. From now on, the pastor may resolve, I'm taking the merry-go-round. That way I can just go safely in circles, year after year, in a predictable and no-risk way.
 
19. On going attacks: The constant, day to day opposition does get under one's skin. One can only go so long without going through the cycle of frustration, anger, criticism, trying to reconcile, mediating, compromising, being taken for granted and used, getting frustrated and angry again. It wears away...at passion.
 
20.  Feeling Alone: Like Elijah, passion is upheld by being in a team of like-minded individuals. when alone, however, the strength of one may not be enough to hold oneself up. As Proverbs says, "Two are stronger than one." Personal and family circumstances, loss of key leaders, rejection by esteemed individuals, etc. can leave one feeling powerless, lonely and without passion.
 
21. Lack of Receiving Peer Affirmation: When was the last time your denominational executive, overseer, or area pastors contacted you personally to uplift you. No, I'm not talking about the "syrupy facade" often used for political purposes. I'm talking about the genuine stuff--like lunch, breakfast, a drink, a drop-by in the office, or taking time at a conference to inquire about your ministry and express genuine spiritual concern. Even an email with a joke, or "hey, did you hear about..." type of casual chat can be affirming to let you know that they exist for you. This can do wonders to encourage passion, interest and support.
 
22. Lack of Giving Peer Affirmation:  It is more blessed to give than to receive. It builds others' passion; it can build yours too.
 
23. Selfishness: When you won't give, sacrifice or are withholding from others or your church, you will lose passion. Be stingy with your time, talents, resources, and ministry and you'll reap what you sowed.
 
Spiritual Character
 
Certainly the list of things which take away passion is virtually endless. However, the real issue in passion is not the externalities of ministry. It is our spiritual character.
 
Passion based on and driven by externals is a worldly passion. It is subject to change, decay, corruption and destruction. A major part of the reason for passion problems is that we are passionate for the wrong things. In fact, passion for things is a mis-guided, idolatrous passion. It's a passion which exalts self over others, one's own lordship over Christ's Lordship, our results and power, not God's will for His Kingdom.
 
Christian Passion, therefore, is  founded on and is a natural extension of those things which are the essentials of faith. The are evidenced in the fruits of the Spirit and constantly energized by a spirituality founded and rooted in grace alone.
 
Passion Means Relationship
 
Perhaps one of the biggest problems with passion is that it has been removed from its indigenous relational roots. Leadership literature, secular and Christian, speak of having a passion for the organization, for the task, for the vision.
 
Unfortunately, they often overlook the most important thing about passion: it's relational component. There is no passion without relationship. One must always be passionate for something or someone. Passion always has a direct object. The passion is focused on that person or thing. Passion is energized by that person or thing. The more specifically and precisely that person or thing is identified, the clearer the passion.
 
Passion also implies a connection to the a person or thing. This identification of relationship is such that passion creates a radically unique un-differentiation of self. As passion for someone or something intensifies, the greater we lose ourselves and our own identity. In our most passionate moments, we assume the characteristics of that person. We become one with it, mutual in all our doings and dependent upon it to the point that if the object of passion were removed, we would die.
 
Without this passionate connection, life itself would lose meaning. Passion always requires that one give up their life and sell their soul. The passionate one, however, is characterized by a willingness to do exactly that.
 
Your Greatest Ministry Passion
 
Your greatest ministry passion should not be your church. It should not be your evangelism program, your youth outreach, your ministry goals, your ministry to children, the building program, or the like.
 
That is not where your passion belongs. All these, as godly as they are, are things. To the degree we have an exclusive passion for things--even godly things--we risk falling into a most unhealthy and destructive undifferentiated relationship with the "things" and "programs" of ministry.
 
As soon as a ministry becomes "Pastor So-And-So's" or another leaders ministry, a fine line is about to be crossed. It won't be admitted. It won't be confessed. But it's there. It's the line of idolatry and self-worship. To the degree the church, program or ministry can't do without you is the degree to which the threat of this perhaps already realized idolatry has occurred.
 
This kind of passion is destructive. Since it's based on the externalities of the law, it does not give life. It can't give life. It may feel good, it may give you a rush. It may get you attention, raises, accolades and advancements. But that's only because they've worked and perhaps because they attract others with the same mis-focused passion. If these programs and initiatives fail, so have you. More insidiously, the failures of that which you have been so passionate make you a failure...a passionate failure.

What's Your Passion?

If passion is...
 
Then we must look carefully at the Root of our passion, Jesus Christ.
 
How Jesus Developed Passion
 
Howard Hendricks said, "If you want others to bleed, you must hemorrhage."
 
This is perhaps the most profound non-Biblical statement of passion we can encounter. It is profound because it points out that the root of our passion is our blood-bought connected-ness with Jesus Christ. Without His passion--and compassion, there is no passion, no reason for doing what we are called to do, namely, minister.
 
Our ministries are not about what we get passionate about. Instead, they are about who or what we are passionate for. When passion is properly focused on the profound and passionate response to the One who felt passionately enough to die for us, "passion" takes on a whole new meaning rooted in grace, rooted in God's power, rooted in God's passion for us.
 
Christ's Passion For Us
 
Passion becomes focused exclusively on just one relationship, our relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship is rooted in the awe of God's passionate love for incompetence, ever-failing, sometimes discouraged, often incompetent, but never-worthy children of God.
 
Reeling in the passionate response of thanksgiving and joy for His blood shed for us, we respond with a bit of grateful and passionate "hemorrhaging" ourselves as a necessary part of extending the blood of Christ to others. That is, after all, what a "living sacrifice" is, isn't it? One who hemorrhages the blood of Christ received by sharing it with others?
 
A Christian Ministry Is Passion-ate
 
The ministry can difficult, demeaning, depressing and damaging. But, when the focus of our passion is Christ alone and His grace for us, it is never discouraging. It is always a passion of love characterized by the things that love entails--things like sacrifice, suffering, going the extra mile, enduring, and sticking out whatever happens to our earthly passions.
 
After all, doesn't our grace-responding passion for Jesus Christ overwhelm and overcome all other passions? If it doesn't, maybe we ought to passionately re-examine our passions and equally passionately redirect our passion to God alone?
 
Get The Right Passion!
 
One of the most passionate men of Scriptures was Saint Paul. Looking at his ministry, one might seek to have the same passion as Paul did so that God could be glorified in our ministries as He was in St. Paul's ministry.

What was Paul's secret? He had but one passion. Not five, not four, not three, not two. Just one. Equally important was that his one passion was not tied to buildings, programs, churches, specific ministries or any thing else. Certainly these sprang up marvelously as God blessed the fruit of Paul's Grace-based passion. But there were not His passion.

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined [i.e. "passionate"] not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 KJV)

Paul was determined, focused, resolved and firm in his conviction and judgment as to the object of his passion. It was Christ. His words to the Corinthians indicated he could care less about anything except that worthy of his passion. Anything less than his determination to preach Christ was simply not worth being passionate about.

That passion was healthy passion. It was rooted in his awesome gratitude for God. It was rooted in his recognition of unworthiness as a sinner. It was rooted in a profound sense that he was who he was only because of Jesus' passion for him. Given the amazing singularity of Christ's passion for him, he determined that the giving of his life would be similarly singular. He would preach Christ.

Paul knew that if his passion was rooted in his speech, in his preaching, in his wisdom or in his strength, it would fail. Like so many of us, he had to find out the hard way. It's not until your passion is destroyed and shown to be rubbish (Phil. 3) that you finally get the only passion you need: The passion to declare to others what God has given you: His forgiveness.

What's Your Passion?
 
What's your passion? Do you need to re-orient some of your passions? Are your passions tearing you away from being healthily connected to the greatest Passion in our lives?
 
Beware! Just because it has the name "church" or "Christian" or "ministry" attached to it doesn't mean your passion is Christ-centered. Our unhealthy, sinful and law-rooted passions are identified by their transitory character, their dependence on us, and the "rush" or frustration we receive from them. If people can shake it, it's external. If circumstances can affect it, it's human. If it fades, it can't be of God.
 
The only passion left is our determination to preach the Gospel. Nothing else. Just preach the Gospel through and by any means possible, recognizing that these external means are subject to success and failure, rise and decline, freshness and stagnation.
 
Do you want passion? Do you need passion? Looking for where to get passion?
 
Go to the cross! See the passion-ate love of Christ for you! Experience the joyful life-sustaining renewal of Christ's love for you. Let the Holy Spirit work in you the joyful experience of His grace permeate and titillate every bone, sinew, muscle and tissue in your body, soul and mind. Now that's passion! Oh what a feeling! Oh, what a message! Oh what a calling!...to have Your passion be a singular, life-changing, ministry-directing passion for Christ alone!
 
Thomas F. Fischer

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:41 PM