Where’s the Passion?


OK, I admit it! I’m naturally wired for passion. It’s in my DNA—I grew up in a stereotypical Italian family in North Jersey. Also, I pastor in northeast Wisconsin, 25 miles from the shrine of Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. People in this area are descendents of the original Scandinavian and German farmers—not exactly poster children for expressing passion. However, when I watch the Packers’ games, I see those same folks transformed into my kind of people!

The same is true when the love of God is poured out in someone’s heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5)—there should be a whole lot of passion coming from that person. We are not talking about an “adjustment” or a small amount of energy. We are talking about the infinite, all-powerful Creator God who resides in a fallen, sinful body. The result? Power! Motivation! Spirit-led passion!

Yet, many Christians and churches today seem lifeless. Where are hearts breaking for lost people and energized to take the gospel to our neighbors, communities and the ends of the earth? Where’s the passion to live holy lives, to love people with this incredible God-given love that we now possess? Let’s face it, many of our ministries and services are like the cure for insomnia.

There are probably many reasons and remedies, but let me suggest just one—if the leader is not passionate, the people won’t be passionate. The leader sets the tone. Until the “up-fronters” and influencers are fervent about God and His work, the people in the church will not be motivated to fulfill the Great Commission.

Do we really believe the stuff we talk about on Sunday? Are people really going to hell if they don’t come to Christ? Will people in other cultures really spend eternity in pain and torment unless they hear about and believe in Jesus? Is the Church really the only investment that will last forever? If we really believe this, we should be flat-out passionate about the Lord and His work!

Life is often mundane, and we can easily drift into a pattern of indifference and ho-hum living. We have to fight that pattern! Our God is great and awesome (Deut. 7:21). Opportunities are in front of us (Eph. 2:10). We have been given everything we need to do the job (2 Pet. 1:3). There should be a sense of urgency in our lives.

Christian, you have passion! You have the Holy Spirit living in your soul. You have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). You don’t need anything else. You just have to let Him out! A. B. Simpson wrote, “There are doors of service offered; there are sacrifices to be dared, advances to be made, promises to be claimed, victories to be won, achievements to be undertaken; but they will not wait for us…we have not days for it, but only moments.”

In 1997, Appleton [Wis.] Alliance Church was a congregation of 600 with healthy ministries and no debt. There was no reason to take any risk. However, our congregation did a little research and found that 95 percent of the 200,000 people we worked and lived among were not attending a gospel-preaching church. That’s a lot of people headed for hell! So our church got passionate. We sold our building, put a down payment on 42 acres, raised $2 million in three years and took out a $7.2-million mortgage. Lots of people questioned why our church, comfortable and secure, would take such a risk. Why fix something that wasn’t broken? Why mess with a good thing?

Last weekend, our church received more than 2,500 people at our three Sunday services. Hundreds of people are coming to Christ. One man was baptized who was so old and frail he could hardly make it into our baptismal tank. For most of his life, he was a stubborn atheist. His son ran to me after the service and said, “Pastor, I just cannot believe what I’m seeing and hearing today. My father raised all of us kids to be atheists, and now he is confessing Jesus as His Master and Savior. I’m in shock!” How can something like that happen? God’s people became passionate—it’s our passion that drives us!

How about you? Are you passionate about God? Are you passionate about living a holy life? Are you passionate about reaching as many people as you can for Christ? If not, ask yourself why. Maybe you have forgotten how downright scary and hopeless it is to be lost and without a Savior. Maybe you need to let the Holy Spirit loose in your life.

If you’re a leader, it is necessary that you be passionate. As one writer put it, “You can’t start a fire in your church unless one is first burning in you.” Maybe you need to go back to your roots and remember your first love (Rev. 2:4–5). Bottom line—you won’t see the results you’re looking for in your life or ministry until you believe that Spirit-led passion makes the difference.

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