By Floyd McClung
Floyd is the director of All Nations and is based in South Africa.
Imagine a well-dressed businessman who walks out the front door of his big mansion of a house, strolls down the path, and once again climbs in his shiny big car, ready for work. He closes the driver’s door with a smile, when he hears the heavy thunk of a very well-made, tightly engineered automobile.
As he grips the steering wheel with both hands, he notices one of his neighbors pulling out of the drive, heading for work as well. He offers a friendly salute to his fellow commuter and turns his eyes back toward the road. The day drags on as Mr.
Businessman waves and grins at those who walk or drive by. His big-boy car draws appreciative glances, and he waves at them all. After a full day of sitting in his car, pointed in the direction of work, he piles out, stretches, and heads back to the house.
What’s wrong in this picture? He never goes to work. He sits all day in the driver’s seat, hands on the wheel, cheerily waving at passersby, and goes nowhere.
The car is pointed in the right direction, the businessman is decked out and ready for work, but the car never moves. Why? Because there is a great big car, but a tiny little sewing-machine motor where a V-6 engine belongs.
Stunning vision and mission statements will get a church no further than the poster paper on which they are written, if they are not empowered by a lived-out set of apostolic core values.
It takes apostolic passion to lift an apostolic vision. By apostolic passion I mean a set of core values that empower us to live radically as the early apostles lived. They delegated money matters and pastoral concerns so they could devote themselves to caring for the poor and preaching to the lost.
They were bold, focused, and committed to radical obedience, no matter what it cost them. They were zealous to see people meet Jesus. They were ridiculed, persecuted, and beaten for their faith. Perhaps the reason some modern-day apostles don’t suffer a similar fate is that they don’t live a similar lifestyle.
Part of the problem is that we don’t know we’re in trouble. We are losing ground while millions around us are dying without Christ. We need men and women with apostolic passion.
What is apostolic passion? And why does it need to be restored to the church? The term passion is used to describe everything from romance to hunger pangs. I don’t know what it means to you, but for me passion means whatever a person is willing to suffer for.
In fact, that’s the root meaning of the word. It comes from the Latin patior and passus, meaning “to suffer.” It is what you desire so intensely that you will sacrifice anything to have it.
Show me your checkbook and your appointments calendar, and I will tell you what your passions are.
The word apostle means a sent one, a messenger. To be apostolic means we are sent on a mission. The apostolic calling of the followers of Jesus includes forging new ways for how we do church and pioneering new places where we do church. To be apostolic is to be radical, to be adventurous.
Apostolic passion, therefore, is a deliberate choice to live very intentionally for Jesus among our neighbors and in the nations. It has to do with being committed, to the point of rejection or death, to spreading the message of his love.
It’s the quality of those who are on fire for Jesus, who dream of making disciples for him. God is on a mission, and all those who line up their vocations and passions to join him on his mission are apostolic.
Apostolic passion is about embracing the redemptive mission of God to this planet—through the church—starting where you live but extending to all nations.
If you will not suffer and sacrifice for something, you are not passionate about it. If you say you will do anything for Jesus, but you don’t sacrifice or suffer for him, then you aren’t really passionate about him and his purposes. You have lost it. Apostolic passion is your inheritance, but you have to fight to possess it.
I am motivated by reading how the apostle Paul got apostolic passion and what he did to keep it. It began for him with a revelation of Jesus that he nurtured all his adult life. Paul not only encountered Christ on the road to Damascus; he kept on seeing Jesus every day.
This revelation of Jesus, and the revelation of God’s purposes that came as a result, gave birth to Paul’s passion. Knowing Jesus and making him known consumed the rest of Paul’s life. By comparison, everything else in his life was dung, garbage, and religious trash.
Nothing less will do for you if you want apostolic passion. If you are not willing to fast for it, give up sleep for it, suffer for it, and spend time with people who don’t follow Jesus, you will never find it. Do you want this thing called apostolic passion?
Are you willing to pay any price to have it? Apostolic passion will cost you meals fasted and nights spent driving and walking the streets of your city crying out to God. It may take you to distant lands and will fill you with a vision of God’s glory that will rock your world and the world of those around you.
When you find it, it will be because you have seen Jesus and savored him, and then discovered you cannot keep him to yourself. All those who are passionate for Jesus are passionate for what Jesus is passionate for. Jesus longs for one thing above all others, and that is his sweet presence to fill the earth.
When you experience God’s passion for his own glory, you will weep because of a vision of the Lamb glorified in all nations. When that happens you will be all too ready to do anything he calls you to do.
Only read further if that is what you want and that is what you are willing to live for and, if necessary, die for. Human enthusiasm cannot sustain apostolic passion. When God invests his own passion in you, you must build and develop what God has given you.
Actually, apostolic passion is a set of passions. The wrong core values, or passions, can drain us of the passion God creates in us. We were reborn with passion in our souls. That passion has to be sustained, or it will be snuffed out.
In this context, I use the terms core values and passions interchangeably, because a value is what we are passionate about, what we believe in at the deepest level of our being. Core values can be good or bad, actual or aspirational. They can be conscious or unconscious in our lives.
Core values can be chosen, but they are most often simply absorbed without our being consciously aware of what we are doing.
Choose Your Passions
You may want to spend time studying the life of Jesus or Paul’s missionary journeys to choose your passions. When I went through this process, I wrote the word passion by the actions or teaching of Jesus or Paul in the margins of my Bible to focus my thinking on what I thought were the values behind their actions.
I consciously chose a few passions from my studies. My tendency is to be impulsive when I make commitments to the Lord, so I wanted to do this differently. I wanted to prayerfully focus on a few values and really live them.
I suggest you don’t choose more than three or four biblical core values to focus on at one season in your life. Once you make your choice, select a few Bible verses to reinforce them. Meditate on them to reinforce why they are important to you.
Write them into your personal mission statement. Record them in your journal. Pray through them on a regular basis. Choose them and re-choose them many times. We take a lifetime to develop unbiblical passions, so we shouldn’t hold back from spending time choosing and nurturing apostolic core values.
Nurture Your Passions
There is a battle for your passions. Choosing your passions is an act of spiritual warfare. If your passions are not greater than those of people in the world, you will be the slave of other people’s passions.
Carefully decide what books you read, what films and TV programs you watch, which people you hang out with, what activities you engage in—all to feed your passions. Your passions are like a wood fire: you have to continually add fuel to keep the fire going.
I choose books and people and churches and outreaches and activities—all with a view of keeping my passions at a high level in my life. I say this out of experience: you can lose your passions. I lost mine at one point while living back in the States.
I found myself breathing air filtered through a poisoned belief system. If you don’t nurture your passions, you can be compromised without making a conscious choice to forfeit lordship of your heart to someone else.
A number of years ago I lost my apostolic passion. I still loved Jesus. I wasn’t overtly backsliding. But I allowed myself to get seduced by the comfort and convenience of Western culture, and slacked off from focusing on the passions of God’s heart for the lost.
I started worrying about future security. I got concerned, overly concerned, about what would happen to Sally and me as we grew older. Slowly the American dream replaced the dream in my heart of God’s glory filling the earth. I turned down invitations to speak in countries at war.
I withdrew from some of the spiritual challenges I would have jumped at previously. It wasn’t as if I chose to do those things—it just came naturally as a result of living in America. It’s like being involved in chemical warfare. I was fighting an unforeseeable force that was dulling my spiritual focus.
After a few years I faced what had happened in my heart. I accepted responsibility for my loss of apostolic passion. I repented openly before others. But the big breakthrough came when I chose to die to myself and the way of believing that had crept into my heart.
I got on my knees and told God I would rather die a pauper with a heart of passion than have all America had to offer. It was a moment of death—and new life. I died to myself, and chose to follow Jesus where he led me. I got up from that time of prayer with my passion back!
Focus your passions
Spiritual passion is not an end in itself. Our passions are in our heart to empower us to live for God’s glory. They are to empower us to live obedient and godly lives. Focus your passions on what God is passionate about:
1. Focus your passions on enjoying God. God exults in his own greatness. The Bible refers to this as the glory of God. Worship him. Make lists of his attributes. Cultivate a life of inner pleasure focused on the beauty and goodness of God. Study his character. Read the Word daily. Develop spiritual disciplines of prayer, intercession, meditation, spiritual warfare, and worship.
2. Focus your passions on the Word of God. Read it devotionally. Read it with a goal in mind. Pray the Word. Memorize it and repeat it. Read it through, book by book. Read at least five chapters a day. Read and study the book of Acts; it is a book about passion and passionate people. The men and women of Acts lived with apostolic intent.
3. Focus your passions on being loved by God. It sounds strange, I know, but God delights in you, so give him undivided time to love you and encourage you. Take time daily to allow the Spirit of God to tell you again how loved you are by Father.
Allow his Spirit to speak deep into your spirit that you are adopted and loved; do this so you live your life from a place of security and confidence. The person who knows he is loved by God is immune to the lure of the world and the temptation to perform for the approval of others. Slowly the American dream replaced the dream in my heart of God’s glory filling the earth.
If you have apostolic passion, you are one of the most dangerous people on the planet. The world no longer rules your heart. You are no longer seduced by getting and gaining the things of this world, but you are devoted to spreading and proclaiming the glory of God.
You live as a pilgrim, unattached to the cares of life. You are not afraid of loss. You dare to believe you may be given the privilege of dying to spread his fame on the earth. The Father’s passions have become your passions. You find your satisfaction and significance in him.
You believe he is with you always, to the end of life itself. You are sold out to God and you live for the Lamb. Satan fears you and the angels applaud you.M
Your greatest dream is that his name will be praised in languages never before heard in heaven and among your neighbors here on earth. Your reward is the look of pure delight you anticipate seeing in his eyes when you bow at his feet and receive the just reward of his suffering: the worship of those you have brought to him.