||When I was very young and just starting out in ministry, a friend wrote a short bio for me
for the back of a brochure I was having printed. It started out Zeal and enthusiasm are
fitting words to describe Ken Dornhecker. Looking back now it is difficult for me to
separate the true Godly zeal from the immature overly zealous efforts of my early days as
However, I do know from the day I got saved. I did have present within my members an
excitement to let others know about Jesus. Shortly after my conversion at seventeen
years old, I went to a local Christian bookshop and bought a necklace with the biggest
cross hanging on it they had. The next day, before I went to school, I gleefully hung it
around my neck. It had the exact reaction I had hoped for. It marked me!
It also caused quite a stir, considering my infamous and sinful background. And many
students and teachers alike asked me with almost an exasperated, incredulous voice,
“Ken, why are you wearing that cross?” Which is exactly what I wanted them to do. I then
proceeded to tell them very zealously about my salvation experience.
A little while later, I bought a big sticker about a foot across emblazoned in bright orange
and yellow letters with the words BORN AGAIN, which I put on the back window of my VW
bus. It too opened up lots of conversations to tell people about Jesus.
As the years went by, my zeal increased. I started printing and passing out tracts. Then I
went “witnessing” every weekend at local parks and youth hangouts. I was fairly relentless
once I started talking to these teenagers. But lots of good came of it, many of them bowed
their heads with tear-filled eyes and asked Jesus to forgive and save them.
Not all were so open though, my own sisters included. They were a few years younger
than me and now in high school. I would take them to school in the BORN AGAIN VW bus.
They would lie down in the seats to hide as we passed in front of the school. Eventually
they would not let me take them all the way to the school. They were only too happy to
walk the last couple of blocks just so they would not have to be seen with that orange bus
Even still their friends would tease them every Monday morning saying, “Your brother and
his friends tried to ‘save’ me in the park Saturday night.” By then I was a local youth
pastor and had the van filled with a whole gang of youth, each with zeal of their own and
hundreds of tracts in their pockets.
Perhaps I was overly zealous at times. One night my friends and I were out “witnessing” at
a crowded strip where teenagers were cruising and circling the blocks for hours. At a red
light, I gave three or four “rednecks” in a pickup truck a few tracts. They seemed friendly
and receptive, until the light turned green. All of a sudden the tires squealed, the tracts
came flying out the window in little pieces, and they sped off across the intersection
cursing God at the top of their voices and laughing.
For a moment I stood there stunned, then something rose up in me. Even though I was on
foot, I took off in a dead run after them. Traffic was stop and go, and it was only a couple
of blocks to the next light, which happened to be red. Boy, were they ever shocked when I
came charging back up to their open window. Their raucous laughter vanished when they
While the light was still red, I quickly gave them an exhortation on the judgment of God
and made them aware that someday they would have to explain to Him why they used His
name in vain. They became as meek as little lambs and pulled into a fast-food parking lot
so we could talk further. I did not get to lead them to Jesus, but they humbly assured me
they would read the new tracts I gave them and consider the Person of Jesus Christ.
Was I zealous or overly zealous back then?
I believe a little of both. I can’t say if even
I know; only God knew my heart. If I
compared myself with most Christians I
knew, I seemed foolish and fanatical.
However when I compared myself with the
believers in the New Testament, I seemed
tame and even timid about sharing my faith.
Are you zealous for Jesus? What is the
nature of zeal and why do we need it?
One reason we need zeal is that the
culture around us has become a swift,
overwhelming current away from Jesus.
If we do not have zeal, we ourselves will be
swept away. Zeal in our context is to love God passionately which overflows to a
passionate desire to see the broken, empty lives of people changed by the gospel of
But more than that, it is being so persuaded of Jesus’ ability to change lives that you
actually have the boldness to try to persuade others. Zeal is essentially another word for
excitement—and the question at hand is, Are we excited enough about Jesus to tell others
I was floored recently as I read that if current trends continued that only 4% of those born
since 1977 would be reached for Christ. Why? We simply do not have enough passion to
make the gospel of Jesus Christ known to our generation. The early apostles paid a
staggering price to tell others about their faith. We are rarely even willing to risk the
possibility of raising someone’s eyebrows. We are almost totally bound by what others
think. Proverbs 29:25 says, The fear of man brings a snare.
We have believed that if we are uncomfortable with sharing Jesus with others, we are
exempt from doing so. But, my friends, that is a lie. Our flesh wants to avoid being
misunderstood and ostracized for talking about Jesus. But the Bible says, In fact,
everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).
I’m not saying we have to be obnoxious, raving lunatics, and desire being brutally
persecuted. I write this document not from a prison cell, but from my air-conditioned office.
My point is, we must go beyond our comfort-zone and start telling others that only Jesus
can change their life. We must raise our sights, and beseech God to set us ablaze with
zeal and passion to spread the everlasting gospel of Jesus.
Do we have the zeal to tell others of the hope we have within us? Perhaps never in history
has the world so desperately needed to be turned around. The believers of the First
Century were so zealously influencing their cultures for Christ they were accused of
“turning the world upside down!” Are we making any difference in ours? More specifically,
are you influencing others to follow Christ? Are we simply too embarrassed or too
concerned about what others think to persuade anyone?
The Question of Zeal!
Is zeal a bad thing, or is it a good thing? Zeal is the spiritual fervor that keeps you serving
the Lord. Should we actually desire it and seek God to fill us with it? To answer both these
questions let us first look at Jesus. He was zealous; in fact, the Bible says zeal for the
Father’s house overcame Him. He was passionate about His mission to save humanity
and reconcile sinners to God. So passionate, in fact, He died on a cruel Roman cross to
accomplish it. If we want to be Christ-like, we must have zeal. Never be lacking in zeal, but
keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).
If zeal is good and should be a
part of our faith, how can we
keep from crossing the line into
careless, rash overkill that
becomes a reproach? I believe
Proverbs 19:2 speaks
specifically to this issue. It is not
good to have zeal without
knowledge, nor to be hasty and
miss the way. As we mature in
the Lord and add years of
experience to our Christian walk,
WE SHOULD NOT LOSE OUR
ZEAL FOR CHRIST AND HIS
GOSPEL. Rather, we should
add knowledge to that zeal that
makes our witness for Him ever
Let me restate it this way, excitement and zeal are characteristics we too often assign only
to baby Christians or youth groups just back from camp. It’s seldom taken seriously and
laughed off as something immature that will wear off. I do not believe excitement about
Jesus Christ and zeal for His gospel should wear off. If the newness of Jesus has worn off
for you and you have lost your passion for Him, that is neither normal nor good. Please
don’t douse young Christians with this view.
I believe certain subtle unwritten rules of our culture keep us from truly being zealous
about our Christian experience. It seems you can get excited, even downright manic about
almost anything today in our society, except religion—that is personal and best kept quiet.
If your favorite sports’ team makes the playoffs, you can wear some outrageous three and
a half foot foam hat or you can even take off your shirt and paint your body and face with
the team colors.
You can go on a talk show and talk about your twenty-seven affairs with cross-dressing
prostitutes from Mars; our culture says that’s all right. But if an eleven year-old carries her
Bible to school, she may face expulsion. I read a news story where a thirteen-year veteran
police sergeant was fired for wearing a one-quarter inch cross on his lapel.
Why is it in our society, the one thing that matters most, the thing that will determine the
eternal destiny of billions of people living on planet earth today, should be kept quiet and
personal? I’ll tell you why, because the prince of darkness and every demon available are
putting a full-time effort into keeping you and me silent.
I want to ask you, my friend, are you still excited about Jesus Christ? Have you shared
your faith with one lost person in recent memory? Have you ever been used by God to
lead someone to Christ? I want to pose a question. If Jesus really suffered an agonizing
death on a wooden cross for the salvation of mankind…if heaven is real…if hell is
real…then how can any response less than complete sold-out enthusiasm be valid? We
must ask the Holy Spirit to fill our lives with true zeal and passion for communicating the
life-changing message of the gospel!
We must follow the example of the Apostle Paul and trust Jesus Christ to pour into our
hearts His Heart: The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is
now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles
the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the only hope of glory. We
proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may
present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which
so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:26-29).
Are you laboring with all of Christ’s energy to make the gospel known to those around
you? Perhaps the passage above seems like deep theological water, too deep to tread.
Then let the simplicity of the Living Bible give you a focused goal to aim at: So everywhere
we go we talk about Christ to all who will listen (Colossians 1:28).
The Source of Zeal!
Perhaps by now you, like me, realize you simply need more fervor and enthusiasm for
Jesus and His message. But you are wondering—how do I renew that passion? How can I
overcome my indifference? What is the source of such spiritual fervor?
I believe the answer is found in one word, JESUS! As He so aptly put it: He who believes in
Me, as the scripture said, from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:
38). Walking with Him is a constant wellspring and source of unspeakable joy, fervor, and
Peter and John were standing under the microscope of the entire Jewish Sanhedrin. They
were being pressured, squeezed, and absolutely forbidden to even speak the name of
Jesus, yet they continued to testify energetically to the entire council. Even the stiff-
necked Jewish leaders recognized the source of their boldness. When they saw the
courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were
astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
Jesus advocated a passion we know almost nothing about, because we have bought into
the lie that being quiet and dignified is the only acceptable way for a Christian to act. In
Matthew, we find several examples of the kind of exuberant faith and life Jesus wants to
give us. He wants our life to be vibrant and make a difference to those around us. In the
Sermon on the Mount, He specifically described the influence He expects us to exert on a
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty
again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a
lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone
in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your
good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).
We simply cannot live according to Jesus’ instructions without zeal. Where is your light,
under a cover or on a stand for all to see?
Later while instructing His disciples, Jesus makes a statement that paints an unmistakably
clear picture of the kind of zeal He wants for us. Again note that intimacy with Jesus is the
reservoir where it can be obtained: What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and
what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops (Matthew 10:27).
Proclaiming something from the housetops is a remarkable picture of limitless enthusiasm.
It is zeal and passion completely unrestrained. Most of us would have to admit we have
never experienced this kind of freedom where sharing our faith is concerned. I believe
there are two basic reasons for this—number one, we simply don’t walk close enough to
Jesus, and number two, we are not FULLY persuaded of the gospel’s claims.
Jesus said, “What I tell you in darkness, speak in the light.” By darkness, Jesus was
referring to your secret devotional life with Him. Time and again, He gave us the example
of going to a solitary place to seek the Father in prayer. This was the origin of the wisdom,
messages, and miracles He demonstrated publicly in full view of the crowds.
He often told us of this secret source of His extraordinary life: I tell you the truth, the Son
can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because
whatever the Father does the Son also does (John 5:19). …And what I’ve heard from him
I tell the world (John 8:26).
You see, Jesus’ awesome public ministry was the result of time spent with the Father in
secret. Jesus is no longer walking on planet earth physically; however He still wants to
speak to people in our generation. Now we are His body and influence in society. While I
am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9:5). Jesus has passed the torch to us.
Now we are the light of the world and our devotional life with Him is the fuel that keeps that
light burning bright for all to see.
He went on to say, “What I whisper in your
ear, that proclaim from the roof tops.” To hear
someone whisper in your ear, you have to
be very, very close to them. You have to be
quiet and still. In our hectic Twenty-first
Century rat race, we seldom get quiet and
still for very long. The still small voice of
Jesus is drowned out by everything from
television to cell phones.
I believe one reason we don’t have the
necessary enthusiasm to share our faith is
that we frankly are not fully persuaded of
the consequences of not telling others about
Jesus. Since, then, we know what it is to fear
the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we
are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain
to your conscience. If we are out of our mind,
it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right
mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels
us, because we are convinced that one died
for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live
for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:11,13-
The Apostle Paul makes it clear in this passage that he was compelled to persuade others
because of Christ’s love and because he knew the fear of the Lord. In other words he was
convinced of the eternal outcome for those who do not find Christ. We may be somewhat
persuaded, but not fully persuaded.
Let me illustrate it this way. Let’s say, for example, you were at a busy mall packed with
thousands of shoppers, when you receive an alarming call on your cell phone. It is a close
friend you went to college with and she is married to a young middle-eastern man. She
hurriedly explains she knows where you are and that she has just become aware that in
eight minutes a terrorist attack will create a massive explosion that will level the entire
complex. You could dismiss her all together and perish with all your fellow shoppers if it is
true. However, if you were even slightly convinced of what you heard, you would likely slip
out the nearest exit and drive away just in case it were true. If it were not true, at least you
had not risked looking like a fool. If it did prove true, at least you had saved yourself.
But if you were FULLY persuaded of what you had heard, you would abandon all sense of
what others thought of you. You would run panic-stricken through the mall and stores
shouting to the oblivious shoppers to clear the building. You would pull fire alarms; you
might scoop up little children and carry them out to safety. You would plead and warn with
overwhelming emotion for everyone to escape. You would not waste a second. You would
not be afraid of bothering your fellow patrons and you would not care what anyone
thought. You would save as many as you could before the eighth minute was up.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the warnings of scripture most of us who call ourselves
believers fit too neatly into the second category. We are convinced enough of the Bible
and its claims that we have made sure WE are saved. We have quietly slipped out the
back door of the mall and driven to safety. However, we are simply not persuaded enough
to be concerned with the eternal well being of others. We just don’t want to risk looking
like a fool to those around us.
Paul said, Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men. The question is,
are we persuaded enough to persuade others? It is true when we speak of an invisible
King who died on a cross, rose again 2,000 years ago, and that He’s coming again, we
risk being misunderstood. We risk being scoffed at. But the danger if we are silent is far
greater. We risk seeing friends and loved ones going to eternal destruction. Picture them,
as we watch the angels drag them away kicking and screaming from the Throne of
Judgment. Imagine hearing their frantic screams as they are hurled over the eternal
precipice and into an everlasting lake of fire.
My friend, something much, much worse than a terrorist attack at a mall is coming. There
is a terrible day of judgment coming for all those who have not received the pardon
offered by faith in Jesus Christ! There is a way of escape, salvation through Christ! Our
friends, loved ones, co-workers, and neighbors need to hear that message.
We must ask God to convince us of its reality and fill our lives with a sense of urgency to
tell others. We must have enough zeal to forget what others think. We must even be
willing to stand and proclaim as others scoff and laugh. We must repent of our shame,
silence, and indifference about the gospel of Jesus Christ—we must become fully
persuaded. We must recover our Zeal for Jesus and His message!