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The Challenge of the Easy

Any form of movement requires energy.

Energy, however, is hard to come by. As biological creatures, human beings will naturally seek to conserve their energies, and will expend them only when motivated by some outside stimulus. We need money, so we work. We need food, so we go shopping. We don’t like how we look or feel, so we exercise. We’re content with how the house looks, but not content for our in-laws to know that it looks that way, so we clean. If we can figure a way around all that, we’ll generally take the path of least resistance. Churches with passion, however, find the energy to push through and move forward. The heat of conviction drives us off the easy path, as our vision for what could be and must be overcomes the attraction of the comfortable. Like the biblical prophet Jeremiah, churches and leaders with passion cannot rest and cannot be silent, even when it would be easier not to speak or act. Seeing that the road ahead will be hard, their inner burden to fulfill God’s calling causes greater suffering than the hard road ahead. This passion becomes an obsession or, in Jeremiah’s words, a “fire in our bones” that we cannot hold in (Jeremiah 20:9). While we understand the importance of passion and are inspired by people who are passionate for the faith, it is also the case that passion can be very difficult to generate and sustain. There are at least two reasons for this, and both arise from the nature of the church as a corporate entity. Specifically, like other organizations, churches 1) do not like change, and 2) do not like passionate individuals who serve as change agents. All organizations struggle with change. What we are doing today has worked in the past (probably), is time-tested, and is familiar. Our routine has become safe and easy, or at least relatively easy compared to the amount of energy that change would require. Change is not only hard, but also risky. Since we don’t know the future we can’t know for sure that something different won’t lead to disaster. For this very reason, even large profit-driven companies with significant intellectual and financial resources find it difficult to motivate change throughout their ranks, and many struggle even at a high level to adapt to evolving market conditions. Because change is threatening, people with passion are often viewed with suspicion. Those who exhibit unusual commitment to a cause may not only make us feel bad about ourselves, they may actually influence others and disrupt the status quo. Far easier to marginalize passionate individuals than to embrace them. Far easier to explain to them why we should be content with where we are than to empower them to run to new horizons. All the rest of the world is changing around us all the time. Shouldn’t we at least be able to trust that the church will be there for us, always the same and always comfortable? Can’t the church be the one place in life where we know that our needs will always be met? The place where we can settle in and recharge? Can’t church be the one place where results don’t depend on some effort and ingenuity?

Passion says “No.”

Q. How would you rate the Passion Factor in your church or organization? Tom Thatcher | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES

This is an excerpt from the Elemental Inventory Field Guide, part of the Elemental Churches Inventory, a unique web-based assessment to measure church health and effectiveness. Combining individual and team learning through online surveys and videos with personalized coaching, the Inventory provides a comprehensive report with action steps. Check it out here!


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