Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Choose to Fizz
Be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11). In 1976 while I was visiting a church in the former East Pennsylvania Conference to raise financial support as a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member, I was asked by the pastor, “What’s the least we can give?” Spiritually passionate persons don’t ask such questions. They’re aiming for the maximum, not the minimum.
Maybe you’re not the fervent type. You’re laid back, not a warm, bubbly personality. I can identify with that, but I would be surprised if you’re not fervent about something. What do others think of when they think of you? What excites you? What do you think about when you’re free to think about anything? If you can bubble up about something, you can bubble up about God and his church.
Pentecost transformed the apostles from fearful followers into passionate evangelists. The Holy Spirit, who took up residence in their hearts, made the difference. Passion is the smoke of the Spirit’s fire. Where there is smoke, there is fire. We’re naturally passionate about our own kingdom, not God’s. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Thessalonians 2:14). Spiritual passion reveals that the Holy Spirit is at work. “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Healthy believers and churches feed the fire. Unhealthy ones put it out. People everywhere are looking for something to get excited about and give their lives to. They are influenced by passionate believers whose faith brings them joy.
“Blahs-ianity” is passionate spirituality’s chief competitor. Doing and saying “right things” without passion angers God. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Rote prayers, unthinking singing during services, ministering to others to receive recognition, using positions in the church for personal power, years of perfect Sunday school attendance without applying anything, one hour per week Christian commitment (worship or Sunday school, but not both), and tradition-driven ministry are various ways the modern church demonstrates far-away hearts.
When you open a soft drink can, it fizzes immediately. Bubbles rise continually. That is a picture of fervent, boiling faith. You know how it feels. You experienced it when you were a new believer. If you allow the soft drink to sit for a day in a glass, the fizz and bubbles disappear. It’s flat. Time, disappointing experiences, and the wear and tear of life can take the vitality out of your faith. Unless you work hard to maintain the fizz, you’ll become apathetic, lazy, indifferent, and just go through the motions without any heart. Is your fizz gone? That’s a critical loss if you’re a church member, but a mortal blow to the future of the church if you’re a leader, because you set the pace. Remember—you can choose your attitude.
Choose to fizz! Work at fizzing! Don’t be satisfied with less.
Seek Joy in God
Seek joy where it can be found. Where you hunt for it determines your success. You won’t find diamonds at the Dollar General Store except on the fingers of the shoppers. You have to look where they can be found. God made you to experience the greatest possible joy from knowing him and doing his will. God has a monopoly on joy. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). The psalmists experienced joy because of God’s presence (16:11, 21:6), word (19:8, 119:14), salvation (51:12), love (90:14), work (92:4), and comfort (94:19).
List ten reasons you find joy in God.
Fizz and Buzz
Your congregation’s fizz and buzz factors reveal its vitality. Passionate believers fizz up with joy, enthusiasm, and zeal. They volunteer to serve the Lord—no arm-twisting required! Their words reveal their passion. At church fellowship dinners, women’s group, men’s group, youth, and church council meetings, they buzz about Jesus. At prayer meetings, Sunday school classes, small group meetings, and worship services, they buzz about him. They not only talk about him, but they love, live for and serve him gladly and willingly. Does that sound like you and your church?
Rate your church’s fizz and buzz on a scale of 1-10.
Pursue Passion and Maturity
Spiritual passion isn’t spiritual maturity. Both spiritually mature believers and new believers are passionate. When the Holy Spirit brings new birth, passionate spirituality can appear as quickly as a fire started by a burning match tossed on gasoline-soaked wood. It comes without any effort, but it does not remain long-term without effort. You have to feed the fire. Spiritual maturity requires tending that fire for two years or more through reading God’s word, praying, sharing your faith with others, obeying, serving and worshipping God, and fellowshipping with other believers. Maturity is evidenced by productive ministry, Christ-like character (fruit of the Spirit), and a lifestyle of dependence on God and interdependence with other believers.
Like a family, your church has persons at varying levels of spiritual maturity. As parents set the tone in the family, the most mature believers in your church determine its atmosphere and expectations. If they are led by the Spirit, thankful, burdened for the lost, joyful, loving, humble, forgiving, obedient to God, supportive and encouraging, and mutually submissive, the whole church’s atmosphere will reflect God’s transforming presence and define what a Christian in your church is supposed to be.
Describe both the size of your spiritual fire (embers, two-inch flame, two-foot flame, or raging bonfire) and how you’re feeding it.
Think like a Winner
When the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2006, I was elated. It was their first championship in many years. Winning feels better than losing. It is exciting to have been part of the track and field teams at Millersville University (Pennsylvania) in 1969 and 1970 that are the only ones in school history ever to win the conference championship. When your favorite teams are winning, you talk and think more about them than when they aren’t. The church is a winner! “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Think about it! Talk about it! Get excited about it! It might not seem like a winner now, but the game isn’t over yet.
Do you think of your church more as a winner or a loser? What difference does seeing it as a winner make?
It’s easier to control thoughts than feelings, yet they’re very much connected. Thoughts dig the channels in which feelings flow. One way to increase your spiritual passion is to think more biblically about God, yourself, and your world. Remind yourself of your identity in Christ, and passion will rise up within you. Personalize God’s word. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on [your name], that [your name] should be called a child of God! And that is what [your name] is!" (1 John 3:1, paraphrased). Read it three times. It makes you smile, doesn’t it?
Your Daddy formed the universe out of nothing! He can do anything, yet he knows your name, cares about, and believes in you. No one is just like you. He made you to experience joy by carrying out a specific part of his unfolding plan designed uniquely for you. That makes you incredibly significant, but it also means you won’t find lasting joy anywhere else.
Joy results from thinking biblically and truly about God, yourself and your world. God does not condemn you if you’re in Christ Jesus, even though he knows your faults. That should make your day! "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2). God owns everything, and you’re his heir. That’s something to get excited about! "You are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir" (Galatians 4:7). I can’t imagine all that means, but I can’t wait to find out! That’s just the tip of the iceberg of biblical truth. Steep yourself in it. The more biblical truth shapes your worldview, the wider the floodgates of joy can open.
Meditate on who you are in Christ by personalizing Psalm 23, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 40:31, Jeremiah 31:3, John 3:16, John 14:2-3, Romans 8:31-39, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Ephesians 3:20-21, Philippians 4:13, Philippians 4:19, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Hebrews 4:15-16, and Hebrews 13:5.
Praise Your Way to Passion
Praising God for his character and promises strengthens your spiritual passion. Years ago, I was scheduled to lead my first worship service after a week of pastoral vacation. I was ten shades of blue-depressed. My spiritual passion did not even register on the dip stick. I was feeling “vacation-hangover.” I’ve noticed that the less I work, the less I want to work! My body was headed back to work, but my heart did not want to go there. On the drive to the church, I began to sing some praise songs. The longer I sang, the better I felt. By the time I arrived, my spiritual passion was restored.
The church in Jerusalem grew explosively because of her passion for the Lord. These believers thought hard about and praised God daily. "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people" (Acts 2:26-27). The Scriptures repeatedly command us to praise God: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4). Praise primes the pump of joy.
Listen to and/or sing songs or hymns of praise to increase your spiritual passion.
Power-Up Your Passion
Passionate spirituality has a “whole church” dimension just as the excitement and enthusiasm of each individual and family at a high school football game combine to form an emotional crowd atmosphere that rises and falls during the game. The spiritual passion of individuals and small groups influences the atmosphere in larger gatherings.
The more time a couple spends talking together while they’re dating, the more their passion for each other grows. Spending time with God in individual and small group prayer is an irrigation line of spiritual passion for the congregation. Since joy comes from God, you can’t expect to experience it apart from communion with and dependence on him.
Organize your church to saturate each ministry and leader with prayer.
Flee Tradition-Driven Religion
Congregational sin blocks fellowship with God just as personal sin does. To the church at Laodicea, Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). The opposite of a vital relationship with Christ is lukewarm, going through the motions, tradition-driven religion. Unhealthy churches are more satisfied with unfruitful ministries than healthy churches are with fruitful ones!
The rigidity of tradition frustrates the gentle leading of the Spirit. The church schedules the same activities at about the same time led by the same people each year because that’s what they’ve always done. If you’ve never used Vacation Bible School as an evangelistic outreach, you’re resistant to changes that would make it more effective in reaching out beyond your own walls. If you’ve always had revival services the third week of March, scheduling services for this March is a knee-jerk reaction. The voice of tradition speaks so loudly that the still small voice of the Spirit of God is lost, like the song of a cardinal at an airport when a 747 is taking off.
In unhealthy churches, unchanging structures and programs take God’s place. Everything is predictable. Pentecost surprises aren’t welcome. God must play by the house rules or he isn’t allowed to play at all.
Evaluate the fruit of every church program. Discontinue unfruitful ones or implement changes to make them more fruitful. Insist on programs that accomplish the church’s mission and meet the needs of people today.
Spiritually proud persons and churches look down on “sinners” and on “saints” who attend churches unlike their own. One woman told me that a second woman from another church in town suggested the first woman’s church was growing only because it was accepting the “gutter-trash” in town (that the second woman’s church did not want!). The first woman said, “We’ll take all the people you don’t want!” Proud persons compare themselves with others and pat themselves on the back for their imagined superiority. They think they’re the only ones who believe, teach, worship, and behave correctly. God does not get the glory in such churches, and he does not show up. He resists the proud (James 4:6). If God does not have perfect attendance at your worship services, it isn’t his fault!
Refuse to compare your church’s spirituality with other churches’ or your personal spiritual maturity with others’.
Release the Steering Wheel
Sometimes church life is about “king of the mountain.” Christians fight with one another and compete for power, control, and prestige. In one church, a former “church boss” who had lost considerable power on the administrative council suggested a unanimous vote should be necessary for the council to take any actions. Perhaps it was just coincidental that he had been the only dissenting vote on numerous motions passed by his council. Perhaps it wasn’t. If you insist, God will let you “control” the church, but there’s no joy or fruit in it.
Give Jesus the steering wheel of your life and church.
Break Down Barriers
Unforgiving persons erect chain-link fences topped with barbed wire between themselves and those who have offended them. The more fences in a congregation, the more tense and unpleasant the atmosphere is. Even visitors quickly detect it. God isn’t pleased, and he isn’t present in life-transforming ways. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). Where there is no forgiveness, there is no joy.
Take down fences you have erected between yourself and other believers by forgiving whatever grievances you have against them.
Pursue Holy Living
Churches can love and still maintain standards. Frequently, unrepentant church folks daily wade chest deep in the black, smelly swamp muck of sin and refuse to bathe. No one in their church seems to notice or care. Our culture applauds this “tolerant” attitude, but God doesn’t. It isn’t what our culture says, but what Jesus says that leads to joy. He said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).
Align your church using the plumb line of God’s standards not the world’s with regard to such issues as living together, abortion, homosexuality, qualifications for leaders, etc.
Channel Criticism Constructively
Unwarranted or unkind criticism kills the spiritual passion of pastors and church workers. Some church folks were spending Sunday dinner criticizing the ushers, choir, visitors, preacher, musicians, children, etc., until Bobby piped up, “It wasn’t a bad show for a dollar!” Phone conversations during the week stoke fires of criticism with gales of gossip. Criticism flows both ways. Some pastors carry grudges against their people. They came to the church to change the world, but the only thing they’re allowed to change is a light bulb (after going through appropriate channels for permission, of course!). It’s hard to be spiritually passionate when others are continually shooting critical arrows at you! The desire for appreciation or recognition motivates many who serve. Unwarranted or unkind criticism is one of the fastest ways to demoralize them. If encouragement increases spiritual energy and vitality in the congregation (and it does), unwarranted criticism decreases it.
Evaluate your motives before criticizing others. You might need to change. Share any critical words God gives you personally, privately, humbly, and with love. Sandwich them between two praises (before and after). Don’t talk about the issue with anyone who isn’t part of the problem or the solution.
Leaders Must Lead
Church members won’t have healthy spirituality if leaders don’t. A person with healthy spirituality is passionate about God, his word, his church, prayer, and lost people. TV dinners are convenient but usually not as nutritious as meals you make yourself. Reading daily devotionals only is like living on TV dinners. Get into God’s word daily, and allow him to speak directly to you. What you apply to yourself is your supply to feed others. Show them how. The role of leaders is “teaching them to obey everything I commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). You teach best by example.
Develop or refine your plans to expose yourself to God’s word and pray daily, to influence unbelievers, to minister to others, and to hold yourself accountable.
How to Increase Spiritual Passion
1. Practice Spiritual Disciplines
In 2006, I planted zucchini, broccoli, and tomato plants. I could not increase their size one millimeter by singing or preaching at them or yanking on them. God made them grow. I planted, watered, cultivated, weeded, and fertilized to provide an environment that was favorable for growth. Practicing spiritual disciplines provides an environment that is favorable for the growth of God’s life within you.
a. Meditate—Much Scripture is like tough meat. You need to chew a long time to get maximum nutrition. Read it a word and phrase at a time. Repeat it over and over. Chewing on God’s law brings delight (Psalm 1:2). Think about the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Spend as much time thinking about Scripture as reading it. Let God’s word, like gentle rain, sink deep into and soften the soil of your heart.
b. Pray—Prayer is talking with God about everything. He is your best friend and wants to talk to you too. Many days he will let the Bible do the talking. Sometimes he speaks directly by persistent impressions. Hearing his voice shouldn’t seem strange. You follow Jesus because you know his voice (John 10:4). Allow quiet time during prayer for God to speak to you. A balanced prayer life includes:
Praise: Praise is words or deeds that honor and exalt God for who he is and what he has done. Knowledge of both comes from the Bible. Exalt God for his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6) and for Jesus, his all-sufficient sacrifice for sin. Those rescued naturally praise their rescuer (Hebrews 13:15).
Rely: The Greek word translated “faith” means dependence upon Jesus, his teachings, and his finished work on the cross, no matter what. Prayer without faith does not please God (Hebrews 11:6). If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (assuming you ask for what’s good for you!) (Matthew 21:22).
Admit: Acknowledge your sins. Confess how you’ve offended God (Leviticus 5:5). When you wrong another person, confess and make up for it (Numbers 5:6-7, Luke 19:8). When you confess your sins, God will forgive them and purify you (1 John 1:9).
Yield: The Lord is God. You’re not. Surrender to him your will (Matthew 26:39), mind (Colossians 3:2), kingdom (Matthew 6:33), body (Romans 12:1), understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), and control of your life (Ephesians 5:18).
Express Thanks: Enter God’s presence with thanksgiving (Psalms 100:4). Thank him for everything (Ephesians 5:20), whether circumstances are thumbs up or thumbs down (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Request: Ask God to supply your and others’ needs. Make requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving for everyone (1 Timothy 2:1), especially for other believers (Ephesians 6:18).
c. Fast—Fasting is denying yourself food, hobbies, TV, computer games, etc., for a period of time to draw closer to the Lord. Check with your doctor before you deny yourself food. A medical condition such as diabetes may mean you’ll need to fast in other ways. Fasting provides opportunity to examine your spiritual life. It frees up time for God. Combined with prayer, it can help resolve conflict and restore unity. It can stir up the spiritual fire in your congregation. If your motives are pure, fasting gives your requests favor they don’t have when you don’t fast. Fasting can break the hold of the kingdom of darkness on unbelievers for whom you’re praying. It is a practical way to practice the self-denial to which you’re called.
d. Journal—Write down your thoughts during prayer and your time in the Scriptures. In the fall of 1981, I began recording applications and impressions from my Scripture reading. The take away value of my daily discipline increased significantly. Previously my goal had been to read through the Bible every year. I accomplished that numberless times with the emphasis on numb! Scripture often went through me like water through a garden hose without changing me. Journaling has helped me be more of a “tree Christian” where water that passes through the plant changes it.
e. Study—You can increase your love for God and others by studying the Bible and other sources of wisdom. Your mind needs to be renewed so you can see the world as God does (Romans 12:2). How does that happen? According to 1 Peter 2:2, crave pure spiritual milk (God’s word). Let a hunger for God’s word be your defining passion.
Renewing your mind isn’t automatic or easy. It takes time and effort to think, feel, and act more like Jesus. God works in you to enable you to will and act according to his purposes (Philippians 2:13). Your part is to program your mind with and act upon one transforming God-truth after another after another. Jesus said that those who practice his teachings prove they’re his disciples (John 8:31). It’s a life-long journey.
Christian books are also a source of wisdom. Twelve books that have influenced me include:
Know Why You Believe by Paul Little; Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis; Desiring God by John Piper; The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer; Knowing God by J. I. Packer; More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell; The Church of Irresistible Influence by Robert Lewis; My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers; The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman; Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster; The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. Reading Christian authors is a practical way to make your spirituality more passionate.
f. Simplify—Simplicity is committing to a lifestyle of seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness instead of accumulating material things. Do you really need an SUV? Will a cabin on the lake make your life more fulfilling? How much money should you spend on housing or entertainment? Do you need the latest computer or big screen television? How can you keep the tentacles of materialism from wrapping around your heart? I love the story about the folks whose car broke down, leading to their staying overnight with a poor farm couple. The couple instructed these folks not to hesitate to contact them if they needed anything during the night. They’d show them how to get along without it!
g. Get alone with God—Solitude is time alone to reflect on God and your life, world, and relationships. Unexamined lives are like neglected gardens overrun with weeds. Solitude enables you to separate weed from crop, urgent from essential, and temporal from eternal. Introverts can find solitude even in a crowd, whereas extroverts have to separate themselves bodily from others.
h. Submit—Submission is giving up the need to be in control. Your problem (the same as mine) is that you substitute yourself for God. Picture yourself reporting in at the official’s table at a Chicago Bulls basketball game in the 1990s with ten seconds remaining in the last game of the NBA finals—“Selcher, in for Jordon!” How ridiculous! But even more ridiculous would be, “Selcher, in for God.” Have you done that sort of thing? We all have. God’s solution was to substitute himself for you so that you will no longer substitute yourself for him. “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
i. Obey—Obedience is doing what God wants immediately and wholeheartedly. Only those who do experience Jesus’ joy: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).
j. Serve—Service is gladly giving your treasures, talents, time, and energy to help others. Those who give of themselves, for example, in hurricane relief, usually become more passionate about their faith. You experience joy when you cheerfully and wholeheartedly do what God wants.
k. Share your faith—Sharing your faith with others increases your passion for the particular lost persons with whom you share and for your Lord.
l. Use your spiritual gifts—Using your spiritual gifts connects you with God’s purpose for your life and his desire to bless others through you. Experiencing God’s using you to touch others provides both a sense of fulfillment and deep joy.
m. Confess your sins—Confessing your sins and failures to one another helps you to experience God’s forgiveness, to be transparent, and to recognize you’re journeying with fellow strugglers. Everyone has problems!
n. Worship with others—Worshipping and celebrating together as a body gives God the praise he deserves and inspires thanksgiving and rejoicing on a larger scale than small group or private worship and celebration.
2. Saturate every ministry and leader in the church with prayer. Leaders pray for those for whom they’re responsible, and everyone else prays for their leaders. Read and apply The Prayer-Saturated Church by Cheryl Sacks. Cover the worship service with prayer using worship intercessors and work at making the service more inspiring. Expect God to show up. Mix celebration and contemplation.
3. Encourage development of multiplying holistic small groups in the church. These are groups in which persons can be real with one another and be developed as disciples, leaders, gift-oriented ministers, and evangelists.
4. Encourage and give opportunities for individuals, small groups and the church during worship services to listen to and obey God’s voice. Every message should include a specific challenge. Develop accountability systems to encourage people to respond to and follow through on these challenges.
5. Plan retreats at your church or at a retreat center that challenge people in their spiritual walk. Leaders should identify and deal with the specific underlying issues that limit the church’s health.
6. Renew your thinking. Your thinking affects your feelings which in turn affect your actions and attitudes. Where are you looking for joy? God made you to find joy in him alone. Read Desiring God by John Piper.
7. Help individuals find a place of Christian service that fits their divine design (spiritual gifts, temperament, passion, and experiences). I recommend The Three Colors of Ministry by Christian A. Schwarz to help believers discover their gifts and How to Use the Three Colors of Ministry in a Mentoring Relationship by Christoph Schalk to empower gift counselors to help others find their place of ministry. (See Healthy Ministry for details.)
8. Help individuals identify their evangelistic style and use it to reach out to those still outside the kingdom of God. Use Becoming a Contagious Christian by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg as an evangelistic training resource.
9. Help individuals plug into compassion ministries (food bank, etc.) that meet the needs of others in the community. This develops a passion for people by getting closer to them.
10. Work on living out in the small groups in your church the “one anothers” of Scripture, e.g., love one another, forgive one another, encourage one another, etc.
11. Develop a mission and vision that will drive the church to accomplish God’s will for it. Remove, one finger at a time, any chokehold that unfruitful tradition might have.
If you’re a leader, your spiritual passion affects the whole congregation. You can’t fake it for long. People are watching and taking their cues from you. How you think and what you do daily might seem like a small, insignificant stone thrown into a lake, but the expanding circle it creates in your congregation and family is immense. Mothers and fathers whose spiritual life is limited to going to church-sponsored services or events a few hours a week without everyday passion for following the Lord are leading their children astray. Their watching children conclude that living for Jesus really isn’t that important. If it were, mom and dad would be more excited about it. That attitude will probably be passed on to their children and grandchildren.
Leaders are kindling. If leaders are wet wood, don’t expect any fire in the congregation or family. Fire within leaders starts other fires. Their apathy breeds more of the same. Their example defines how a Christ-follower lives. Duty-motivated leaders produce duty-driven followers, for whom the faith is a real yawn. Love-motivated leaders produce love-motivated followers. The diligence of leaders in feeding their own spiritual fire can impact their congregation and/or family for generations. Passionate leaders produce passionate followers. Too much is at stake for leaders just to go through the motions. Be kindling!
Spread the Fire
Give passionate believers opportunity to share why Jesus is so important to them and how they feed their spiritual fire. Give them a visible place in the life of the church to multiply the passion and highlight it as a value in the congregation.
Make into teachers or mentors passionate believers who have appropriate gifts. When their fire comes close to other believers over a period of months, it’s likely to spread to them and from them to others.
Spiritual energy accompanies spiritual fire. Those who are most excited about Jesus and your church are your most effective workers. Their energy is one of your most precious resources. Guard it. Warn them that the greatest resistance and opposition they’re likely to face will come from other members of the church. Those who are least excited about Jesus are often discouraged and discouraging. They try to squash the ideas of the passionate and might even question their sincerity. The challenge to passionate believers is to maintain their fire while some in the church are trying to stamp it out.
Warn the spiritually on fire to expect opposition from those in the congregation whose self-appointed ministry is putting out fires.
Feed the Fire
Unfortunately, most spiritual fires burn down. In April 2007, a huge fire blazed behind my house. I helped my brother burn diseased pine trees removed from his property. The flames shot twenty to twenty-five feet in the air and were so hot we had to stand at least thirty feet away. In less than an hour, the fire was considerably smaller. By the end of the day, only a few smoldering logs remained. It does not happen in a day, but the spiritual lives of many follow that same pattern. In the beginning, there’s lots of fuel and giving the fire more seems unnecessary. Without feeding, physical and spiritual fires burn out.
Help white-hot passionate believers develop the habit of feeding their own soul to sustain the burning long-term.
Connect Spiritually Passionate Workers with Those Less Passionate
When passionate newcomers are coupled in church work with less passionate, but skilled laborers, both benefit. The enthusiasm and electricity of the passionate can recharge the batteries of long-term workers, and they in turn can teach the passionate the nuts and bolts of practical ministry.
Connect passionate newcomers with appropriate ministries and assign each one to work together with a veteran in that ministry for the first year.
Mobilize Passionate Believers
Sometimes passionate new believers are put on the shelf until they mature in the faith. That’s a big mistake. One of the best places to use them is in evangelism. They might not be able to answer questions like why God allows evil and suffering, but they know what has happened to them and are anxious to share it.
Mobilize passionate new believers to do evangelism in their web of relationships.
Evaluate the Passion of Your Spirituality
To evaluate the health of your church’s spirituality, complete the Healthy Spirituality Underlying Issues Inventory in "Underlying Issues Inventories" on this website.