Archive for May, 2010

Starbucks knows something that the church just doesn’t seem to get sometimes.

In Revelation, John writes to the church of Laodicea that, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Rev 3:15-16).”

Starbucks makes a lot of money selling coffee basically two ways.  You can get it hot in multiple ways.  And you can get it cold, even frozen, in multiple ways.  Most people don’t walk into a Starbucks and say, “Give me a lukewarm coffee that’s been sitting out for a few hours.”

And that’s the same thing with the church.  God wants churches to be on fire, burning with passion.  A hot church is one that’s doing kingdom business and has an outlook that’s designed to add to the kingdom.  A cold church on the other hand is just a Holy Spirit encounter away from turning up the heat.

But the lukewarm church, hmmm, that’s a completely different matter.  God says He spits lukewarm out.  In some translations, it’s a little more graphic. It says God vomits them out.

For a better discussion of lukewarm than I can give here, read Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love.” Unfortunately, it seems, based on his definition that many churches are lukewarm.

In fact, I found out this weekend there’s a song book for the lukewarm church.

  • Instead of “Be Thou My Vision,” the Lukewarm Church sings “Be Thou my Hobby.”
  • Instead of ‘O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” the Lukewarm Church sings, “O For a Couple of Tongues to Sing”
  • Instead of “I Surrender All,” the Lukewarm Church sings, “I’ll Surrender As Little as I Have to.”

Well, you probably get the point.  When there’s no movement of the Holy Spirit, there’s no passion. When there’s no passion, the church becomes a passive and dying institution.

I’ve personally been feeling just beaten up and beaten down for the past month of so.  It’s probably a combination of all the allergy and sinus medicine I was on. Maybe it’s just spring fever.  But I’ve been longing to feel that passion of the Spirit again.

Someone has told me a great quote.  “It’s easier to hold back a congregation filled with fanatics than it is to raise one corpse from the dead.”

My prayer is for the Holy Spirit, for passionate churches and for active ministry for the Kingdom of God.

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”  — Rev 3:15-17

Recently, I had the chance to read Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love” and I thought he did as good a job of talking about the idea of lukewarm people as any other book I’ve read.

Lukewarm people go through the motions of religion. They sit in church pews, often out of a sense of duty.  They give out of a sense of obligation. They read the scripture, (you guessed it!) out of a sense of obligation.  They pray, out of a sense of obligation.

See a pattern forming here?

This sense of duty and obligation has a special way of shielding us from ever truly experiencing the work and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Add on top of that all of the rules that we can come up with for worship spaces — and here’s some that I know of.

  • There are rules, sometimes unwritten, about where the pastor can and can’t stand during the sermon.
  • There are rules that we’ve developed about when we’re supposed to do Holy Communion and some have rules to keep outsiders from participating.
  • There are rules about who can and who can’t stand behind the pulpit.
  • There are rules about where the Communion Table should be and where the baptismal font should be and about which version of the Bible the pastor is supposed to use for sermons and about what kinds of songs we’re supposed to sing in the service, and how many, and so on and so on.

The sum result of many of these “rules” of worship is that we ended up with a service that is designed to flow even if God doesn’t show up.  So, if God does show up, if the Holy Spirit is there, if the Resurrected Jesus moves among us, how exactly would we know with all of the rules that we put in place to keep them out.

  • We prefer safety over surprise.
  • We prefer predictability over authenticity.
  • We prefer comfortable over the radical message of a Resurrected Jesus.

On so many levels, church can easily become the Lukewarm Institution housing Lukewarm people.

In Revelation, John relays this message — God would prefer that you be either on fire or on ice.  Lukewarm is not the goal, it’s the problem!

There are days when I pray a lot for sparks of life, for God to shine through in all the ways we struggle to keep him out.  I have days where I beg the Holy Spirit to show me something new, to teach me what’s next, to show me a better way.

And then there are days when I just want to be a lukewarm Christian.  Why rock the boat? Why take it on the chin? Why deal with the headaches?

Why, why, why…

But I’m coming to realize that I’m not lukewarm at all.  I’m coming to find that I struggle with lukewarm.  There’s this resurrected Jesus out there that I want to experience and this idea of being lukewarm just doesn’t sit well with me anymore.

If the church (the Church Universal) is going to be a viable force for good in this world, then it’s time we turned up the heat.  It’s time that we raised the spiritual temperature and started moving people from lukewarm and apathetic to hot and involved.

Here’s to a hot, hot church.