I went to a small seminary in California, the International School of Theology. It had an amazing but short 25 year history and trained hundreds of students who have brought great glory to God. The seminary struggled financially, sometimes battled competing visions of how to accomplish its mission, but despite the struggles I loved my time there. I met some amazing people. I had the incredible privilege of teaching there for a time and made some forever friends.
One of the things I loved was our chapel services. For me, most of them were transcendant. I was often brought to tears as some talented worship leaders and Godly men, professors and quest speakers tried to show us a Christ worth everything we could give Him. They painted pictures of Jesus that were intoxicating.
Dr. Jenson, the first President of the seminary, once shared in chapel an experience he had while interviewing pastors around the country in some of the 100 fastest growing churches in America (back in the late 1970’s). He said that without exception, in every one of the fasted growing churches, there was an intense and inspiring passion for the work of God. Pastors, elder boards, deacons, youth workers, small group leaders, teachers, nursery workers—seemingly everyone had a passion and zeal for the work of God that was deep, energetic and magnetic.
But Dr. Jenson’s next words have haunted me for almost 40 years.
“It was exciting and inspiring to see these churches passion for the work of God,” he said. But then his voice moved from excited to serious, and he added, “but the sad thing was that it was less than a handful of those 100 fastest growing churches where the passion for God Himself was equal to the passion for the work.”
Think about that.
“Less than a handful of churches had a passion for God Himself
that was equal to their passion for the work of God.”
Does that sound right?
Does that sound backward?
Can I tell you how it sounds to me?
It sounds warped.
It sounds like, “Houston, we have a problem!”
It sounds scary!
It sounds dangerous to me.
All of which leads me to a quote from a simple but powerful book by Pastor Jim Cymbala.
“If our churches don’t pray, and if people don’t have an appetitie for God, what does it matter how many are attending the services? How would that impress God? Can you imagine the angels saying, ‘Oh, your pews!’ We can’t believe how beautiful they are! Up here in heaven, we’ve been talking about them for years. Your sanctuary lighting—it’s so clever. The way you have the steps coming up to the pulpit—it’s wonderful. . . .”
“I don’t think so.”
“If we don’t want to experience God’s closeness here on earth, why would we want to go to heaven anyway? He is the center of everything there. If we don’t enjoy being in his presence here and now, then heaven would not be heaven for us. Why would he send anyone there who doesn’t long for him passionately here on earth?”
“… Jesus himself can’t draw a crowd even among his own people! What a tragedy that the quality of ministry is too often measured by numbers and building size rather than by true spiritual results.” p. 58-59
Let’s be passionate for Jesus. And let’s refuse to let our passion for the work of God ever eclipse our passion for the ONE, the only one, who left glory to grovel in the dust with us, the ONE, the only one who laid His life down as an atoning sacrifice for our sin, the ONE, no other one, who rose from the grave as the triumphant King over death and sin, The ONE who forgives us and promises eternal life and an eternal home with Him. Let’s be passionate about Him.
A heart aflame for God is what we should always be looking for. Always.