Those who know me well, know that I speak often of the importance of vision and strategy in church leadership.  One should never underestimate the positive impact on our ministry when we have clear vision (we know where we are going) and clear strategic plans (we know how we are going to get there).

However, vision and strategy are not enough to produce the fruit of ministry we all desire.  Perhaps you’re familiar with the fire triangle?  For a fire to occur, there must be three ingredients:  heat, fuel and oxygen.  Remove one, and the fire goes out.  In my experience, church ministry has its own triangle – let’s call it the leadership triangle.  If vision and strategy are two of the necessary ingredients for effective and fruitful ministry, then what is the third?  It’s what contemporary literature on church leadership refers to as passion.  I sometimes call it holy enthusiasm.

I see passion as the fuel that drives the vision and strategy of our ministry.  It is the God-given desire, deep within us, that gets us up every morning and propels us toward the vision.  It is our most deeply held values grounded in the Word of God.  It is the awareness of a holy calling upon our lives.  It is the stirring, burden and longing of the soul to see God glorified in our ministry.  Take this away and there is no fire.  Without passion, our vision will be a mirage and our strategic plans will only burn us out.  Without passion, our ministry will become dull and routine, and we will become vulnerable to the enemy.

When it came to preaching the gospel, the Apostle Paul was passionate.  He spoke of being “eager” to preach (Romans 1:15) and “compelled” to preach (I Corinthians 9:16).  This deep-seated passion was a driving force in fulfilling the vision to establish churches throughout the gentile world.  It was the fire in his belly, the fuel in the leadership triangle.  Do you possess this passion in your preaching and leadership?

Your passion will be experienced by others in a variety of ways.  They may notice the joy and fire in your preaching, your determination in the face of struggle, your burden for a lost world, or simply the energy in the air.  But one thing for sure, you will know that the Holy Spirit has gotten hold of you and you are living out His purpose in your life and doing so in His power.

I have a vested interest in your passion for ministry, just as you have a vested interest in mine.  Together, we are a part of the movement of God we call Converge Great Lakes.  Our passion for Christ produces energy in our movement, it drives the vision of our movement, it ignites others in our movement, it broadens the influence of our movement, and it causes all of us to do crazy things for God.  Crazy things like starting a new church; like challenging the status quo; like giving up a financially secure future to follow the call of God, and like pouring ourselves into the life of a broken and lost soul for the cause of Christ.  For me, the craziest things of all was becoming a pastor/leader – once you hear my story, you will understand what I mean.  Passion literally drives me crazy!

Jesus said, “. . . love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy” (Mark 12:30, The Message).  In this rendering, the word passion is used in place of heart.  Passion is a matter of the heart.   It is a crazy, enthusiastic love for God.  It is a wholehearted, all in and all out, surrender of our will to His.  Paul said, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).  Passion is spiritual fervor.  It is zealous energy in our love for God and in our service to Him.  Do you posses this wholehearted, spiritual fervor?

If the passion of your leadership has diminished, the consequence for your ministry is very real.  Without passion, the vision and strategic plans are rendered impotent.  Without passion, the lost are not likely to be drawn to the Savior.  Without passion, people could lose hope for the future.  The time stoke the fire is not after is has gone out but at the very first sign of a diminishing flame.  Paul said, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God . . .” (II Timothy 1:6).

Is it time for you to fan the flame?  Here’s some suggested action steps which will help ignite your passion for Christ and the mission of His church:

  • Spend seven days meditating on these seven Psalms:  63, 145-150
              Read one Psalm per day.  Journal your deepest thoughts about God as triggered by these Psalms.
  • Evaluate your spiritual disciplines.
              Read Celebration of Discipline, a classic by Richard J. Foster.
  • Connect with another Converge Great Lakes pastor and meet once a month to pray for great passion.
              Fire has a tendency to spread.  Take advantage of that tendency!
  • Go to a secluded place and do a one-day reading of Acts, making note of the passion of the early church leaders.
              What did their passion look like?  What were they passionate about?
  • Have a one-day retreat for your leadership team for the purpose of capturing the mission passion found in Acts.
              Jerry Sheveland’s study book, Fire and Reign, is a good resource.

Will you join me in fanning the flame?  Remember, we have a vested interest in each other’s passion.  After all, we are a part of the same movement!