Summertime PassionOctober 11, 2011
As I looked over the large group of people gathered for training, I couldn’t hold back the tears. Just ten years ago, we started our counseling/prayer ministry with one person: Me. At that time, God showed me I needed to begin a training program to equip other counselors to practice what I did. I started with four other help professionals. Since that time, over 100 people have been trained to do this sort of counseling. This large group meeting was a blend of trained people, interested folk, pastors, psychologists and their friends. I watched as those I had trained lead most of the seminar, doing a work I never even dreamed possible all those years ago.
That feeling I had is what I call Summertime Passion. It is the sense that the initial vision and excitement is now beginning to gel into something substantial and long-lasting. It is the feeling of pride a parent gets when their oldest child graduates from something. It is embodied in that moment when a friend quotes something you have said over and over again, and you realize it is now part of their belief system too. I think this may be the most satisfying season of passion.
Spring is the promise of new life to a farmer. But summer is where the farmer works the hardest; tending the new shoots, feeding the burgeoning crops, watering it all. When we think of the passions of our life, Summertime passion takes the most effort. We all know people who come up with a hundred great schemes and visions, only to leave most of them barely beyond the Spring stage. Their plantings are often stunted for lack of work and continued passion. They only get excited about new things and continue to abandon their new seedlings in search of fallow fields and planting opportunities. One person comes to my mind immediately. This person loves to dream and get others excited about the vision. Yet, there is a persistent pattern of losing passion when the real work starts.
How can we avoid shutting off our passions during the summer season?
There are three things that need to be added to initial vision. Just as the farmer must ensure nutrients, water and sunshine get to his growing crops, so too there are three essential ingredients if one is to enjoy the fruit of their labors during Summertime passion.
1. Adding Maturity to New Growth
I was camp director for a teen camp over an 11 year period. One of the sad realities I faced was watching teenagers make commitments for Christ at the camp and then stop following Jesus afterward. At times, teens were wary of making any commitment during the camp for fear they would simply punk out on that commitment when they got home. One year, a brother/sister pair dedicated themselves to obeying Christ every day. It was more than just a verbal agreement; they had both been heavy drug users and they were tired of all it had done to them. The day before camp ended, they came up to me and asked if I would help them draft a plan on how to live after they went home. Most of all, they wanted to stay off drugs. In addition, both of them felt compassion on their friends who were still wrapped up in dope.
Our plan involved inviting their drug friends over for some meetings. Each time, either the youth pastor or myself would share about the love of God after one of our teens shared their testimony of Jesus’ changing power. Honestly, only two of their friends made any move toward faith in Christ. But, those who did not move toward God also did not approach them any more about using drugs. That was an incredible time of maturing for both of them. For the remaining years I pastored that church they were leaders in the youth group and mentors for others trying to kick bad habits.
In Hebrews 5:12–14, it says:
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
To be mature means to train oneself to distinguish good from evil. We do that by constant practice and carrying forward of our vision into the realities of life. In agricultural terms, it is so much easier to plant the seeds than to do all the other things that help the growth. When a person enters into the lifestyle that their vision requires, it produces a different kind of passion. This is not just exciting, but gives a sense of firmness and reality to the original vision.
2. Adding Mentoring to New Growth:
In his book, “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell identifies one type of person who helps to shape change in our society. He calls this person the “Information Maven”, whose gift is to find wonderful new truths, inventions, trends and ideas and liberally pass them on to others who can make good use of them. This skill set enables the Maven to join together people of vision with people of action. When those two things are mixed together, the results are exciting and quick. The same is true with Summertime passion. Nothing helps us pass along our vision like the process of mentoring someone in that same process. Those we mentor emerge into a new vision for their life – a springtime passion. For those of us doing the mentoring, the joy is much fuller. We get to have the summertime passion of realizing our vision flowing through another person.
I watch as Jim Harbaugh coaches for the San Francisco 49ers. Harbaugh was a quarterback a long time ago by football years. He won a Super Bowl and had as many good seasons as bad. From there, he went on to successfully coach teams in college and finally this year came back to the pro game. This year, he has taken a quarterback under his wing that most people had given up on. Alex Smith was the first pick in the College Draft and has never had a winning season as starter. Yet, Harbaugh stuck with him and has worked with him many hours each week. He has designed a system to help his team, and his quarterback, be a success. I watched last week as his quarterback threw his third touchdown pass of the game…the second week in a row he has done that. When Smith came off the field, Harbaugh dropped his quiet, determined manner and hugged him fiercely. You can see the Summertime passion all over his face these days. He is not throwing the ball, but it may feel even better to see his protege doing it.
3. Adding Partnerships to New Growth:
The natural outflow of mentoring relationships should lead to a deeper place called a Partnership. With mentoring, the joy is discovered in passing on a set of skills. But the passion released in partnerships is seeing someone take off with a vision in a direction you have not traveled. In the Book of Acts, Barnabas is asked to go pastor a young gentile church in Antioch. The more he spends time with this group, the bigger the task seems to him. To lessen his load, he finds a man named Saul who is now called Paul. The two of them go back to Antioch and co-pastor the church. Years earlier, Barnabas had mentored Paul when no one else was brave enough to be around him. Antioch, however, marked a different stage in their relationship. Barnabas allowed Paul the authority to carry on his ministry without having to be mentored any further. Barnabas worked side-by-side with Paul as equals. A year or so after they started working in that church, God called the two of them to partner in a new venture: A mission to the Gentile towns of Asia minor. Mentoring should eventually lead to partnerships if we do it correctly. Often we don’t allow our mentorees to become partners because we really don’t trust the work we did with them.
It is a different flavor to have people you formerly mentored now serving with you side by side in a project. I find it thrilling to see my trained counselors being sought out by people from other towns because their reputation has gone ahead of them. A few weeks ago, a young lady who has been seeing one of our counselors met me in church for the first time. As we talked, she wanted to know if I did any of the counseling. Ten years before, I did ALL of the counseling. Now, in a given week, I might do a quarter of all the ministry in that area…perhaps less. And it thrills me to know the original vision is now sprouting and taking on a life of its own. That is summertime passion.
What new ideas have you continued to mature in? What mentorees have you brought along with you on your visionary journey? Have you released partners to carry on with you? If you haven’t, then you’re missing out on the joy of Summertime. And once you have seen the summer, the passion of the Fall will amaze you.