There is a cold, hard fact I remind myself of often as a pastor. No one does more to determine the spiritual temperature of my church than me, the pastor. It’s part of shepherding. I’m the lid. I’m the limit.
I define passion as the heated desire within us to do or to be something. Paul talked about being on fire (ready is prothumos or “on heat”) to preach (Romans 1:17) and told Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God within him” (2 Timothy 1:6). I believe pastors are the primary thermostat when it comes to the spiritual temperature of the church.
That doesn’t always mean a lukewarm church is led by a lukewarm pastor. There are always exceptions. Sometimes passionate leaders lead apathetic people—just ask Moses. And sometimes apathetic leaders have passionate followers—but usually not for long. But since I’m writing to pastors and leaders, I’ll simply say that if you’re frustrated that people don’t seem passionate and driven enough, you must start with a check of your own temperature.
When you find yourself in a spot where you’re leading a lukewarm body of people in a mission that demands passion, there are some things you must do to change the game. Fair warning—preaching at people out of your frustration isn’t one of them.
1. Get alone with God. Absolutely nothing kindles passion within you like time with Jesus. He loves the church far more than you do—enough that He gave His life for it in a way that you never could. HE is the ultimate source of passion for ministry.
2. When you get alone with God, repent of sin in your life. What I mean is, do a soul-searching, dark-dusty-corner-sweeping inventory of what might be distracting you from the main business of your calling. Whatever you find, repent of it.
3. Pray more often, longer and more personally than ever. I don’t believe God is offended by passionate praying. He is offended by flippant prayer that fails to recognize His supreme power and authority over all things. Go boldly and often!
4. Talk to a mentor or coach. I’ve been encouraged through some of the darkest moments of my life in leadership by some of my greatest heroes on earth. Everybody needs models, mentors and friends.
5. Share your vision again … and again. Remember, vision leaks and the tank runs empty every six weeks or so. So cast your vision to key leaders individually, to teams collectively, and speak the language of your vision to the whole body regularly.
6. Love people. If you don’t love people, you’ll get angry with them for letting you down and failing to help you accomplish your goals. But if you love them, it’s no longer about what they can do for you—you’re suddenly concerned for their own lack of joy and growth.
7. Diagnose and remove leadership lids. One of the most important laws of leadership that John Maxwell has ever spoken about is the law of the lid. If you’re an eight on a scale of 10, you’ll never lead others beyond a seven. So grow. Don’t be the lid.
8. Go first. If you want people to have a servant’s heart, serve. If you want them to be people of prayer, pray. If you want bold evangelists, share Jesus. Never expect others to do what you as the leader have an unwillingness to go first in.
9. Change the game. Change forces people out of their comfort zones and often provokes new growth, even when it’s painful. The moments when I’ve grown the most in my life have always been times of transition.
10. Empower other leaders. Moses led well, but his leadership really took off when Jethro helped him get organized. Good churches are led by passionate leaders, but great churches are led by passionate teams of leaders.
It always starts with something spiritual—worship. Nothing stirs the fire of God in our hearts more than worship, praise and prayer. The best place to start raising the temperature of your church is in your own heart, and the best place to start doing that is on your knees.