Today Joe is successful (as church folk tend to score it.) In fact, last spring, his congregation emerged from "almost-megachurch" status and broke the 2,000 barrier in worship attendance.
Yet with everything sharp and spit-polished on the outside, Joe has a passion drain on the inside.
How did Joe loose his passion? His ministry success caused it.
Believe it our not, it is actually Joe's success that has assaulted his passion; passion for Jesus and passion for people.
Joe has experienced the dynamic tension of what I call the passion-success conundrum. And the conundrum is this:
Great passion breeds success, but great success buries passion.
The best way to illustrate this dynamic is a snapshot of walking into Starbucks at the beginning of Joe's church plant verses today. When Joe's church was one hundred people, time at Starbucks was daily and intentional (not to mention expensive, but worth it for escaping the kid-cluttered home office). Joe paid attention to every person in the place. Are they believers? Do they have a church home? How could he start a spiritual conversation? At the start, Joe was "hungry," desperately on mission and readily responsive for the next person to meet.
Today Joe's church runs two thousand in worship. Truthfully, Starbucks is the last place he wants to go. He knows people will recognize him. He knows he'll be pulled into three conversations before he orders and hit up with a "dumb church question" or shallow prayer request from a infrequent attender before he leaves. Even wearing his baseball cap and dark glasses, he was spotted last Saturday. So from here on out he's silently committed to drive-thru only.
What happened to Joe's passion to meet the next new person for the Gospel?
In short, it's buried. It may still be their deep down inside, but he's out of touch with it. He is in touch, however, with his success. His ministry has momentum, he's managing an effective staff, and people like his preaching better than ever.
In the next few posts I want to consider further this passion-sucess conundrum. We will explore more closely this dynamic of passion loss and how to get it back.
But before we do, let me ask, "Do you know Joe?"
My hunch is that everyone in ministry has a little bit of Joe inside: Bursts of initial ministry passion and energy followed by experiences of ministry highs and success. Only then to be followed by moments or seasons of expired enthusiasm.
Can you identify with this conundrum?