Whenever I’ve lost my evangelistic passion, here’s what I’ve always done to get it back.
1. Pray this prayer multiple times a day: “God give me your heart for people in this area.”
Over the years, whenever I’ve lost my passion for people far from God (which seems to happen every 4-5 years), I re-engage by praying this prayer.
Doug Roe, the Senior Pastor of The Vineyard in Dayton, Ohio, taught me to pray it. I met Doug when I pastored another church I planted in Dayton that zoomed from 150 to 150 in four years.
Doug told me that he had started a church, and then it fired him as his pastor. Then he started another church down the road, and that folded. Then he started praying this prayer. As he mouthed the words, constantly, daily, before bed, as he was walking, almost non-stop, God answered his prayer. God gave him a burden to reach the most lost of the lost in Dayton, so he started a third church in the center of Dayton which ended up reaching thousands.
If you’ve ever met Doug he doesn’t light the room on fire when he speaks, and he doesn’t have a charismatic personality. But what he does have is a dogged determination to reach the most lost people in his region. And that, I believe, is because God actually gave him HIS heart for people far from God.
Your sound theology (i.e. belief in hell) plus your connection with God, and the overflow of both surging through your life, is hands down THE most important cause of church growth there is. Your heart trumps hiring staff, doing direct mail, bringing in special speakers, etc.
So pray this prayer. And if you need to, take John Wimber’s advice and fall down on the ground before God and cry out to him until he does something.
Right now your church culture may resemble the Israelite culture in which the prophet Samuel was raised,
In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions (1 Samuel 3:1).
But that culture went through dramatic upheaval when one person began praying a simple prayer,
Speak, for your servant is listening (vs. 3).
Because Samuel continually went before the Lord with that single prayer, it was said,
The Lord let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” (vs. 19).
The God who created the heavens and the earth listened. Every. Single. Time. And he’ll do that for you and me.
All Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. (1 Samuel 4:1).
People recognized that there was something different about Samuel, and that’s because God spoke through him.
Can you imagine the kind of spiritual impact a legit prophet would have on your community? I’m not talking about a creepy faith-healing hit-people-on-the head nut. I’m talking about someone who dares to speak with the weight of God in his voice, and serves with absolute disregard for wealth, power, notoriety, and fear of human beings. I’m talking a legit 7th century BC prophet with an iPhone in his hand.
Can you imagine if one of those guys pulled a U-Haul up to your town? Can you picture the kind of sheer upheaval and spiritual revival that would take place?
The high places being ripped down – idols smashed – lines drawn – false teaching put to the sword – the poor, broken, marginalized, and spiritually disenfranchised all finding their way back to God?
Well that’s you my friend.
If you’re willing to commit yourself to praying this prayer, I guarantee that, like Samuel, God will do something through your church that will,
Make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. (1 Samuel 3:11).
Count on it.
2. Surround yourself with 3-4 pastors who believe in hell and have God’s heartbeat for the lost.
Proximity changes behavior, whether it’s a teenager who starts hanging out with the wrong friends, or a pastor who used to spend time with evangelistically consumed peers and then starts hanging around pastors who aren’t.
One of the things that helped me craft a conceptual roadmap for leading the new church I was to start in the suburbs of Philadelphia to growth was hanging out with Doug and others like him.
Other than God, of course, how else can you explain me following a plateaued church plant with one that reaches almost exclusively lost people and has grown to 1,700+ in a deeply resistant area?
I can tell you I had the same giftedness, personality, and education in both settings.
It wasn’t a new strategy, philosophy of ministry of the latest ministry fad. It was new friends. Period.
The friends I sought out and spent time with were pastors who were willing to pay the price for leading their congregations in evangelistic growth. They each had a litany of war stories to share. They each faced criticism, discouragement, and seemingly impossible obstacles, but pushed through it all.
I tell the Senior Pastors I coach that these guys rubbed off on me.
That’s what changed.
I became more like them and fought back against the same self-defeating beliefs and behaviors that every Senior Pastor has to deal with.
Evangelistically focused churches never happen by accident. In the next post I’ll share some of the things a pastor can do to help the church they serve re-engage with evangelism, but I have to warn you that the changes are painful.
The only consolation is that the pain associated with each step comes with a huge payoff.
The only thing more painful than transitioning the people within a congregation to live evangelistically brave lives is to pastor a church filled with people who don’t give a crap.
Pick your poison.
What do you do when you lose your evangelistic passion?