After 27 years of planting churches and working with church planters, I’m often asked what sets apart a successful church plant from non-successful ones—kind of the “secret sauce” in church planting. I always say I think it’s more of a recipe than a single ingredient. But I continue to see that of all the ingredients, one stands out above the rest: passion.
I don’t think there’s anything more important than passion when you’re leading. Passion trumps intelligence and ability. It even trumps content. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, people will follow you. In many ways, it’s the catalyst that moves you beyond what you can do to what your team could become.
So let me give you a couple things that you need to be passionate about.
A Passion for the Vision
Recently, I was at a dinner seated next to someone I didn’t really know. Trying to make conversation, he asked me, “Do you fish?” My eyes lit up. Then he asked, “What do you fish for?” I dove in. I said I fish for redfish and then told him about three or four different ways I fish for redfish. I talked about how I like to get up early in the morning and topwater fish and then I told him how I liked to fish at high tide right at sunset when they’re tailing. When we finished talking, this guy said, “Man, you sold me. I’m coming to Charleston just to go fishing with you!”
You need a vision that you’re passionate about—one that inspires you to talk about it, and when you do, your eyes light up. Hear me on this: I’m not sure that becoming the biggest or the best is enough to fuel and drive passion. For 27 years, our passion at Seacoast has been “helping unchurched people become fully devoted followers of Christ.” After almost 30 years, it hasn’t gotten old. Isaiah said that sometimes he didn’t necessarily want to preach but that the Word was like a coal burning in him (Jer. 20:9). People will come from a long way just to watch a fire burn.
A Passion for Preaching
More than anything else, your preaching will determine if people give your church a second look. Part of that passion comes from being ferocious about your study time.
At Seacoast, whoever’s teaching that weekend has to preach the sermon on Thursday to the whole leadership team. The other day, one of our young guys got up, and the sermon was terrible. I’m trying to think about how to make this better, so I asked him, “How was your study time?” He said, “I’ve had so much going on this week that I just haven’t had time to really focus.” I helped him understand that’s not how we do it.
You don’t give the people crumbs on the weekend.
If preaching is the primary thing, then your study time is sacred. You control your time or somebody else will. You must set aside the time and be passionate about the time you invest.
That said, I’ve also learned that you can’t be passionate about everything all the time. Either you have discovered, or you soon will, that Sunday comes along every seven days. They keep showing up. Sometimes you’ve got to preach a sermon from Ecclesiastes, and you’re just happy to get through it.
So I want to challenge you to find one little piece of that message you can be passionate about. And if you don’t have it, don’t preach it until you go before God and ask, “Give me a heart, a passion for that one thing.” Sometimes I walk out into the auditorium and sit and pray over the chairs: “God, give me a heart for the person sitting here today. Help me feel what they feel, give me some idea of what he or she may be going through. Lord, show me the piece in this message where I can be passionate about teaching it and reaching this person.
I tell every staff member who comes in my office saying they want to plant, “If there’s anything else you can possibly do, then do it. If you can’t do anything else, then you better go ahead and start a church.” I love quotes, and I particularly like this one about passion and perseverance from Steve Jobs: “You have to be burning with an idea or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate from the start, you’ll never stick it out. “ Mr. Jobs was right.
Church planting is the toughest thing you’ll ever do. But like I said earlier, passion trumps a lot. If you’re passionate about the vision and your preaching, the long hours you put into a startup won’t feel like a chore—and you might even have a little fun along the way.
Greg Surratt is planter and senior pastor of Seacoast Church based in Charleston, South Carolina. In 2012, he became president of ARC and is leading the network to plant 2,000 churches by 2020. Surratt is the author of Ir-rev-rend: Christianity Without the Pretense, Faith Without the Façade, and posts daily on Facebook.com/PastorSurratt.