Leaders in the present North American church are being programmed into a fixation on the notion that what we all need to succeed is to somehow find "a better mousetrap." The mind-set produces a relentless quest that pursues endless avenues, such as scouring Internet Web sites, plowing through leadership material and highlighting slogans in the latest corporate motivational book, near-frantic idea/program-hunting visits to high-visibility churches, labored analyzing of contemporary culture and local demographics and diligently processing "makeovers" on everything from the church's platform arrangement to its parking lot signage.
I have no direct opposition to such sincerely sought, purely motivated quests. However, the majority of the time, they at best prove only temporarily useful, and far too often end in providing little more than a cosmetic for a much deeper need. In short, neither durable change nor spiritual dynamic are likely to ever be gained via the labored means of human ingenuity.
Efforts at finding and doing something beget inevitable weariness with having tried so hard and gaining so little. And a lot of pastors find a net result reading, "disillusionment," and sometimes, "despair."
Naturally, I do believe organization, plans, administration and programs are necessary to lead with wisdom and fruitfulness. But, to be frank, I'm becoming less patient these days with the passivity shown toward what I think is most needed by the majority of thinking leaders today: passion (1) in our personal worship of God (then, in the way we lead the flock to do the same); and passion (2) in pursuing an abiding fullness of His Spirit in our lives (then, in wisely drawing everyone in the congregation toward the same experience).
I will never defend wild-eyed fanaticism. Nor am I arguing for passion as, for example, a license to a carnal indulgence of anger when things don't happen fast enough. My plea is not to give place to the shallow, selfish pushiness of self-will erupting or manipulating to "get things my way—now!"
To argue for passion is not to indulge in a proposition that patience is supplanted, and impatience given a throne in your values or mine. But I have found a law of diminishing return where that order of patience is exercised that becomes so placid, so cooled, so bound by reserve that the status quo is never confronted. Whenever I find myself caving in to difficulties instead of opening to new dimensions of God's grace, I need passion, not patience.
Whenever I find I'm surrendering to the situation instead of making a new surrender to God, I need passion, not patience.
I'm wanting to discern and overcome that so-called "patience" that submits to the subtlety of human fear, doubt, passivity or pride—that lying voice that whispers: "Don't get too excited about God or expect too much of Him. Tough it out. Be patient." Because, in fact, the Bible reveals there are times when a divine discontent needs to motivate me—not a patient passivity.
It is passion, not patience, that moved Jesus through Gethsemane's ordeal and paved the way to Calvary (see Luke 22:39-46).
It is passion, not patience, that brought spiritual breakthrough when effort was made to silence the church (see Acts 4:23-31).
It is passion, not patience, that brought Paul to discover grace sufficient for the satanic battle he was waging (see 2 Cor. 12:7-10).
These Bible examples are a prompting to us all to open the doorway to relive those days when the disciples passionately waited on God for the Holy Spirit.
Let me encourage you: Whatever you are going through or whatever your personal challenge, whatever your family trials or whatever your economic circumstances, whatever your physical pain or whatever your wearied soul's tiredness, let us partner together to passionately pursue this principle: If with all your heart you truly seek Him, you will find Him.
That is an order of wholeheartedness that is at the core of our Lord Jesus' desire to ignite our hearts with the flame of heaven's passion and love: "'He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire'" (emphasis mine; Luke 3:16, KJV).
Decades of leading and teaching God's people have not produced in me a reckless excitability, but I have concluded that whatever else, without passion little will be birthed or broken through. "Cool" Christianity will never successfully resist the bonfires of unbelief that intimidate souls, nor the fiery darts of evil assault that rain from today's skies. We can only fight fire with fire.
Jack Hayford is the founder of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, chancellor of The King's College and Seminary and the president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. This column previously appeared in the May/June 2001 issue of Ministries Today.
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