While at Annual Conference I stepped into the Cokesbury Store, and picked up a copy of Francis Chan’s, Crazy Love. The sales clerk told me as she checked me out that this book had literally changed her understanding of God and his love. I am just about through with the book and I must say it has convicted me of some things in my life.
Chapter four deals with, Profile of the Lukewarm. John wrote in The Book of Revelation to the Church at Laodicea these harsh words, “I know your works; you are neither cold or hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold or hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth,” (Revelation 3: 16-17, NRSV). Chan then goes through a litany of characteristics that lukewarm Christians posses.
Here are a few that really convicted me, and as a pastor I see these same characteristics displayed in the vast majority of people who God has called me to pastor. “Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as the love themselves. Their love for others is typically focused on them who love them in return.” This one hit home. How many times have I said that I love people, but did I really mean that I loved them or was it something I said because I know that’s what your supposed to say?
“Lukewarm people say that they love Jesus, and he is indeed a part of their lives. But only a part.” Ouch! This one sure hurt. There are some days that I get so caught up in being a pastor, and doing things that a pastor is supposed to do that I forget the most important thing, and that is giving Jesus my all. This means being intentional in spending time with God through prayer and the Bible. It means giving Jesus my all. I recently had a conversation with a parishioner who said, “I prayed and gave God my kid’s. I want my kid’s to give glory to God in whatever they do. I want whatever happens in their lives to bring glory to God.” That is a huge prayer for a father to pray. In all honesty that was the kind of prayer and faith that Abraham had when it came to Issac.
“Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, energy and money they will give.” This one hit home. Yes, I serve others, but after a while some people just get on your nerves. Yes, I’ll give some time as long as it does not interfere with my plans. I’ll give money, but oh I can’t give that 10%. Believe it or not I have thought the same things since I have been a minister.
“Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God.” I can say that I like to be in control of situations after all it was Kenny Rodgers who said, “you got to know when to hold’em know when to fold’em.” I want to be able to call the shots. I can’t risk too much or I might make the people mad in my church and they may then want a new pastor. Ministry is about taking risk. It’s a risk to reach out to people who are different. People whose skin color, values, sexual orientation, or way of living can be problematic for some in the church. Think of all the people that we read about in Christian History who were willing to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God. You can start with the New Testament and work your way forward. It’s amazing what some people have done in order to follow the Lord Jesus Christ and the calling that they have on their lives.
As a United Methodist pastor, I can only somewhat speak for United Methodist, and more particularly for First United Methodist Church, Water Valley, Mississippi. The reason United Methodism is dying in America, is because we are afraid to take risks as a denomination. We have forgotten that John Wesley reached out to the poor. He reached out to the marginalized. He went to the hurting masses. Methodism has become a denomination filled with those that are afraid to take risks. We say our churches are opened to all people, but you sure don’t see many churches going out into the community and reaching out to the poor and needy. It’s a big difference in risk tasking versus providing pastoral care and taking care of the needs of those already in the church. I can assure you the famous last words of a dying church are, “but pastor we love one another.” That may be true but do we love Jesus to the point that we are willing to get out of our comfort zone? Are we willing to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God?
Chan ends the chapter by saying, “Jesus asks for everything. But we try to give him less.” I can only speak for myself. I have been a lukewarm Christian. This is not what I want to be. I want to give God my all. I am tired of not taking risks in my ministry. I want to lead by example. I want to be “hot” and not “cold.” Lukewarm Christianity makes the Lord sick. It makes God so sick that God can’t hold it down. God has to vomit it up. Woe, to those of us who stay lukewarm.