Almost any successful endeavor requires enthusiasm. When it comes to ministry, a better term for “enthusiasm” might be “passion.”
What is the difference between “enthusiasm” and “passion”? We can refer to stagnant dictionary definitions, but it always helps to define things in our own terms.
Passion vs. Enthusiasm
enthusiasm — gusto, fervor, ardor; excitement for the task at hand.
We get enthusiastic about all kinds of things. I’m very enthusiastic about baseball and golf, for example. Anyone who has spent time with me knows that two of my favorite things to do are to watch the Houston Astros and to play a round of golf. If I could find a good way of combining these two, I would.
Sometimes we get enthusiastic about not just recreation or hobbies, but also work. I’m enthusiastic about writing. Engineers get enthusiastic about problem solving.
Passion is something different. Passion, at its very root, requires that we be so committed that we are willing to suffer. That’s why we talk about “Passion Week” or “the Passion.” This is the period of Jesus’ life where he suffered immensely.
Passion for something requires enthusiasm; it requires that zeal, that fervor, that ardor. But, it also requires a high degree of commitment. As I mentioned, I am highly enthusiastic about the Astros. However, I am not so committed that I feel ashamed for missing a game, or even so committed that I feel a need to watch the entire 162 game season.
I know people with a passion for the Astros. As he’s getting his kids ready to go to school, my brother reminds the whole family whether or not the Astros have a game that day, and where and when that game will take place. As Spring Training approaches, he is licking his chops. He sacrifices evenings out because he must watch the game. That’s commitment. That’s passion.
passion — zeal, gusto, fervor, ardor with a high degree of commitment.
Passion in Ministry and Service
A passion-less ministry is a doomed one. I mean this in two ways:
- Anyone, Christian or not, who is attempting to serve others must necessarily be willing to suffer. To serve others is an unselfish act. The level of unselfishness required often causes us to sacrifice the things we like (whether material or immaterial). This act of sacrifice, this act of love, is a byproduct of our passion.
- In a pun-ny sense, I would say that a “passion-less” ministry, a ministry that does not focus on the cross, is also doomed. In order for our commitment level to remain high, there must be a cause, a motivation. Ideals and altruism simply aren’t enough.
As a Christian, I believe that there is a fundamental reality, a fundamental truth: the Spirit invaded the world with Christ. This notion is so foundational to my thinking that it governs my worldview. Suddenly, life has meaning and purpose.
Meaning and purpose lead the Christian to committed service.
You may love the environment, and work hard for an organization like Greenpeace. But does that work give your life meaning and purpose? Some might be so passionate about environmental issues that this is the case–they truly derive meaning and purpose from their efforts to save the rainforest, or manatees, or whatever their particular agenda is. Kudos!
Christianity, as a religion and a philosophy, has passion built right in. I would argue that meaning and purpose derived from a love of the environment or cars or baseball is artificial. Unlike Christianity, these loves don’t represent any kind of fundamental worldview.
The Christian understands the world as a consequence of the first principle—the existence of a loving God and his intervention into the world. This reality governs (or should govern) every decision that the Christian makes.
It would be difficult to believe that the status of a certain animal on an endangered species list leads me to make a lot of daily decisions. Likewise, whether or not a particular baseball team is performing up to your expectations does not determine how you’re going to treat the people around you (unless, of course, they’re hatin’ on your team).
Christianity not only governs our relationships with people, but should govern every decision we make. This includes the mundane (how to wear your hair tonight) to the insane (whether or not to start your own business, perhaps). This is why we can truly have a passion for ministry. The ideal is more than just an axiom about humanity, it is a pervasive truth that tints the goggles of those who choose to put them on.