“As God leads you, follow with willingness. And as you become more passionate, so will the congregation you lead.”
If you are a pastor who is struggling with your passion, then I am writing this to encourage you.
I love being a pastor. And, more specifically, I love pastoring Kfirst.
I don’t say that flippantly. I’m not just speaking words, hoping my feelings catch up to them. Nor am I trying to “prove anything” to myself or anyone else. I genuinely love pastoring this amazingly awesome and imperfect church.
But this isn’t just me. I have recently come across other pastors and missionaries who feel exactly what I feel about where God has called them.
My minister friends, this is how it should be.
I’ll admit that, in the past, I’ve been skeptical of others who were a little “too passionate” about ministry. I thought they were either newer or not facing any of the type of challenges that I was dealing with. I’d find myself avoiding them because, quite frankly, they annoyed me. But, if I were to be really honest, it wasn’t them personally that bothered me. It was the envy in my heart for what they had and what I lacked. It was a tough place to minister out of because my happiness was dependent on everything else BUT the Lord.
Having a passion about ministry doesn’t equate to massive numbers or packed events. Possessing deep joy doesn’t necessarily depend upon any denomination (or lack thereof), title or church. This overwhelming sensation is all about being where God placed you and experiencing the joy of walking in obedience to him.
Deep passion doesn’t mean you don’t face tough seasons. I’ve come to realize that the more you want to do for the Lord, the greater the giants you’ll face. Kfirst faces the challenge of an aging building and a community still growing into it. We’re still trying to discover how to stop being so program-dependent and develop the systems needed to facilitate personal discipleship and corporate growth.
I get frustrated when people want an event to do outreach corporately but refuse to do it personally. Do you still get hurtful comments? Me too. From unsigned cowardly notes to those making critical comments to me right before the service starts (it’s tough to preach with that on your mind). These things happen in ministry. You are human. So are the people you minister to. And I believe that all of these things are pivot points from which we can either live in frustration or continue to move toward what God has called you to do.
So as I sit back in my parent’s cabin, I thought I’d type out some of the changes the Holy Spirit has challenged me to make over the past four or five years that have stoked my passion.
1. I tweaked my prayers from, “Lord change the people in my church,” to, “Lord, let the change start with me.”
It may sound cliché, but “be the change.” Don’t expect your congregation to change in ways that you need to change in. My passion for change in people is fueled by the work the Holy Spirit is doing in me.
2. I started journaling again.
This has been a game-changer in my personal life and sermon prep. It has helped me process my thoughts as I’m in the Word or reflect on things the Lord has laid on my heart. Unrealized passion is potential. And potential is nothing unless it is accessed and released.
3. I started running.
Passion is fed on every level (spiritual, physical, mental and emotional). For me, this was more than just “getting in shape.” Though the physical health benefits have helped me, there are tremendous emotional and mental ramifications to getting exercise. Besides, I spend time on my runs talking to the Lord and spending time listening to him. Your congregation needs you to take care of yourself. A healthier leader is a better preacher and stronger leader.
4. I stopped leading ministries.
My passion was depleting as it was being pulled in so many directions. I needed to listen to Paul’s word to Ephesus when he said to “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church.” We pastors should be pouring into people and launching leaders. The more we step back and allow people to step up, the less the church will be about us and the more it will be about Jesus.
5. I changed my “hours of operation.”
I literally love waking up passionate about what I do and I don’t wait until 9 a.m. to start working. I’m focused and creative in the early mornings and can get so much accomplished before the sun comes up. In saying that, most of my evenings are spoken for, as most people who I need to connect with work during the day. I’ve creatively approached my hours to create margin for marriage, family and ministry.
6. I frequent the same local businesses during the week.
It’s easy to get lost in your office and never see the light of day. From where I get my coffee in the mornings, to lunches, to my haircut place, I want to engage with people in our community. I’ve learned their stories, brought them donuts, developed friendships and even got to do one of their weddings.
7. I give people the benefit of the doubt.
I was wasting passion by fixating on assuming the worst. A simple rule: Assume the best in others. I needed to learn to look at people not through the surface lens of my perspective, but how the Lord looks at them. This deeper look into people literally changed my attitude overnight. It’s helped me look for ways to build bridges for healing instead of destroying relationships by disregarding personalities. Which leads me to …
8. I’ve stopped being so serious all the time.
Looking for the negative in life is like catching a cold; you don’t have to do anything to get it. I like looking on the lighter side of life. Yes, I know reaching people is a serious thing, but I’ve learned that for people, laughter is a bridge to the seeing the heart of God. Personally, amusement has become my best medication for frustration and depression. I believe one of the most spiritual things you can do is laugh. We as pastors should be conduits of joy, not hammers of judgment.
9. I study other pastors and churches.
I used to get depressed looking at the successes of other pastors and churches, as my own pastoral insecurities got the best of me. I was missing out on the wealth of creativity and kingdom-building ideas that God was doing around the world. I want to sit and listen to pastors. I want to read their books and listen to their podcasts. I’ve recognized that I need to learn from everyone regardless of age, experience, church size or denomination. We should be a kingdom of collaboration, not a group of religious silos.
10. I stopped fighting change.
I don’t ever want to change for the sake of change. But I’m doing my best to not give God an excuse every time he starts testing my comfort zone. I was depleting my passion by wasting strength on fighting God to keep the things I didn’t want to change. The more I’ve opened up to the changes he wants to make, the more joy has been released in my life and in ministry.
Fellow pastors, my prayer for you is that of David in Psalm 51:12:
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Ask God to do a new work of passion in you. And as he leads you, follow with willingness. And as you become more passionate, so will the congregation you lead.