Wanted: Ministers with Passion & Enthusiasm

Wanted: Experience together with passion and enthusiasm – strong communication skills – confident – motivated – willing to put in the effort to achieve high results’. No, it wasn’t an advertisement for a minister, but for a salesman. But wouldn’t this make a good job spec for a minister?

I was particularly struck by the emphasis on ‘passion and enthusiasm’. These related qualities may mark some younger ministers, but all too often by the time they get some experience under their belt, the passion and the enthusiasm have disappeared. Yet without passion and enthusiasm there can be no meaningful leadership, and without leadership no church will grow. Indeed, GWF Hegel once said: “Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion”.

Over the years I have always emphasised the importance of ‘passion and enthusiasm’ for ministers. As far back as 1990, in my book Dynamic Leadership, I listed ‘enthusiasm’ as one of the six key ‘qualities’ necessary for leadership, along with vision, industry, perseverance, humility and love.

However, recently I have been fascinated with a model of leadership developed by Terry Calkin, where passion, along with vision, character and gifting, is one of the four ‘foundational principles’ of leadership. Terry is worth listening to for he is no mere theoretician: he put his principles into action and as a result founded a church which is now one of Auckland’s ‘mega’ churches. So let me quote from Terry’s leadership manual, Becoming a Leader in Life.

1. Vision

Every organisation will rise or fall on vision (Prov 29.18). Vision in a church or church related organisation is always God-given. Vision is the ability to know and to define the common objective… Leaders must have a clear focus on the common objective and resist any temptation to deviate from the vision…. Vision is essentially an ultimate destination that the leader wants to reach.

For Terry “the objective of leadership in a church is to take un-churched people and make them fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ”. There is nothing novel about these statements. What is novel is the rigorous way in which Terry applies this principle.

2. Passion

Passion is essentially the application of deep and strongly felt emotions. As a leader your implementation of your vision will attract other people to follow you in your vision…. Passion is the ability to communicate that common objective (or vision) to others, to motivate them to achieve that objective.

The “deep excitement” of passion is “the contagion of leadership”. He also notes that our English word passion can mean ‘suffering’, which causes him to say:

One of the most successful ways of reducing the impact of suffering upon leadership is to build a team around the leader, thus enabling the burdens of leadership to be shared.

Again, there is nothing novel about these statements. What is novel is the way in which Terry emphasises the link between vision and passion. For him the two are inseparably inter-twined in a successful leader. “Vision without passion is a day-dream”, he states, but “passion without vision is a nightmare”.

3. Character

Character is “the integrity” with which leadership is exercised.

Character reflects the inner life of the leaders… It shapes the way a person acts or reacts. It is the filter through which a person’s thoughts values and motivation come to be expressed to the outside world.

Terry distinguishes between ‘personality’ and ‘reputation’ on the one hand, and ‘character’ on the other. “Personality is what I am born with, character is the result of choice. Reputation is what people think of me, character is what I am when no one is looking”. At a time when there is so much leadership failure in church-life, this is a welcome emphasis.

4. Gifting

Terry is clear that gifting is vital – and yet interestingly he devotes little space to this foundation of leadership in his manual. For him what is vital is that gifting is combined with vision, passion and character.

I find this a very helpful model of leadership, and not least because of the emphasis on ‘passion’. Thanks to Rick Warren we have become familiar with the concept of the ‘purpose-driven’ church. But maybe we need to talk about the ‘passion-driven’ church. In the words of Kent Millard, an American church consultant:

Knowing your purpose in ministry is vital, but you also have to have a passion for it or you’ll never achieve it. Purpose tells us where we are going, and passion gives us the energy to get there.

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