Passion's Place In Faith

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on September 20, 2011

  • “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” Benjamin Franklin
  • “Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Reason is the natural order of truth.” C.S. Lewis

It’s no surprise in today’s culture that the media is driven by passion. One look at movies and music today will show that the angst and cry of a broken heart will sell far more than a rational understanding or portrayal of the world. The same may be true for modern churches and worship. It is possible that the Church relies more heavily upon passion than it does intellect.

Consider discipleship programs that emphasize the importance of a heart set on fire for God. It’s these same programs that encourage living in a constant state of expectation from God – never being satisfied with the place we’re at but always striving for the mountaintop experience. The idea here is that at every peak of faith, there is a higher level of passion and emotion relating to our walk with God. It is true that we want to be continually growing in our relationship with God, but an inordinate emphasis on this type of striving may, in fact, cause disappointment, loss of faith or even our sense of mission.

Beyond Adrenaline

Our God is not purely an emotional being. Time and again in Scripture God makes the emphasis on knowledge known: “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding” (Proverbs 2:2-3 NAS). Increasingly over the years, I have seen a decline in the meaningful content of teaching and lyrics.

* Discipleship seems to focus on what to avoid rather than what to learn and question.

* Worship is based on a permeating drumline and an epic sound rather than what the words mean that we are singing. Repetition has seemingly replaced ingenuity of expression.

* Emotion and passion have replaced intellect and rationale. What used to be a steady, sound faith is now running in the direction of becoming as fluid as our likes and dislikes.

One goal of being a Christian is to become mature in the faith. The emphasis on passion in the Church seems to derail, or at least not encourage, this maturity in faith; instead, passion and emotion develop Christians who, upon the slightest bump, will wonder what their faith has come to. I’ve seen this in young and old Christians, alike. When their faith is based primarily on an emotion, the moment that feeling leaves them, they wonder where God has gone.

Here and Now

As worship leaders, we might find ourselves praying week after week in front of the congregation for God to take us to a place we’ve never been, when perhaps God is trying to speak to us right where we are. The latter creates an atmosphere of people worshiping in the moment. The former encourages a feeling of unfulfilled urgency rather than immediate connection.

Instead of fiery passion, let me suggest we emphasize a mature expression of love. It is love that is proclaimed to be above all other gifts, above all hope and faith (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is love that does not fail when the feeling fades or when the relationships get tough. Love does not expect a pleasant emotion to accompany it at all times. Love does not expect that we will be excited and in awe of it at every turn. Love does not ask to be pointed out and flaunted in every area of our lives.

Rather, love is our foundation. Regardless of how passionate we feel about serving God or other people, our mature, quietly persisting love will withstand the many trials we face.

Total Worship

This subject is not easy to address in our Christian culture. Always – whether is is in politics, entertainment, or the Church – people who focus on emotionalism look more compassionate and spiritual than those who don’t. Let us not be swayed by this facade. Emotion is fleeting, but wisdom and love are steady. Being steady is what will win out in the long run – whether it is in human relationships or in our walk with God. Passion has its place in a body of believers who want to come together to worship God, but this should be only a part of the total worship experience.

Apply It

There is a place for passion and there is a place for quiet adoration in our worship of God. Think of ways you can incorporate these into your next service of worship:

  • Silence
  • Contemplation
  • Meditation
  • Pondering the ways of God
  • Fasting
  • Retreat
  • Rest

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