What Makes A Church Lukewarm?

In the book of Revelation, John starts out with messages to seven specific churches located in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey. One of these was Laodicea. While God delivers a mixed message to most of the churches—here’s what you’re doing well, but I have this issue with you—He doesn’t have anything good to say to the Laodiceans:

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

When I was growing up we played a game that involved the person who was “it” telling players who were searching for an item if they were cold or hot—hot being they were near to the item and cold being they were far from it.

Naturally, when I read this passage in Revelation 3, I translated the “cold” and “hot” terminology based on my understanding of the words—from the context with which I was familiar. Consequently, I was confused. Why would God ever say, I wish that you were cold? Wouldn’t He only and always want believers who were close to Him, who were hot?

The problem is, John was thinking of the Laodicea context. This city situated on a trade route was far from a water source, so they build an aqueduct to bring water from the mountains. At the source, this water was ice cold, but by the time it arrived in Laodicea, it was tepid.

In contrast, in the nearby valley there were three hot springs, but water transported from them would cool and by the time it arrived in Laodicea, it also would be tepid.

So the Laodiceans would be familiar with cold water that was no longer cold like it had been in the mountains, and with hot water that was no longer hot as it had been in the valley. How they might have wished for cold water to drink or hot water to bath in. But what they had was only room temperature water that was not good for either purpose.

In short, I think the Laodiceans understood that God wanted them to be useful, not ineffectual or purposeless.

In some ways, I think the church in America got caught up in the ways of the Laodiceans. We simply forgot what we were supposed to do and why we were to do it.

We’re still trying to find our way, but the problem is that we think, too often, that what people need is what we have—the good life. They need three square meals a day (though we rarely eat that way any more—maybe the better way to state it would be, as much food as they want each day, when they want it). They need a roof over their head and clothes on their back. They need safety and freedom, a job, and a government that will protect them.

I’m not saying those things are wrong or that we shouldn’t readily give them when we are able. But is any of that why Jesus came? Is any of that what Jesus told us to pass on to others?

Actually, no. Jesus came to preach the good news. He told us to make disciples. By the way, disciples are not brainwashed fools who go mindlessly along doing what they’re told, but they are actual followers who want to grow more and more like the Savior who rescued them from darkness, and transferred them into His kingdom of light.

I think we’ve gotten confused. On one hand, we thought “disciples” meant “converts,” so we were happy with people coming to the front in an evangelistic meeting and “giving their life to Christ” even though they might take it back a year later because they didn’t really know what this “Christian thing” was supposed to do for them.

On the other hand, we thought we could make disciples by handing out lunches to the homeless on skid row, and by supplying clothes for the used goods store, or buying a present for the child of a prison inmate or many other very necessary activities.

Please understand: converts are good; activities that help others are good. But they should not replace “making disciples.” They are lukewarm. They don’t satisfy the thirsty man and they don’t adequately wash a dirty one. They aren’t bad, in and of themselves. And if they get a little ice or get heated on the stove, then they can do what they were intended to do. But alone? Lukewarm.

And Scripture says, lukewarm is destined for one thing. Some translations say, God will spit them out, some say spew, some say vomit. The point is, lukewarm is worthless.

The great thing about this message to the church in Laodicea, I think is verse 19:

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

God doesn’t want His Church to stay in a place of uselessness. Because He loves us. Loves us! Yes, He loves those He’s sending us to as well, but He loves us. He doesn’t want us as tools, but He understands our need for purpose. He wants us to be involved in His business, to get on with advancing His kingdom. That’s a high and holy purpose—one that requires us to be hot or cold, just not lukewarm.

Published in: on January 23, 2018 at 5:32 pm  Comments (5)  
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  1. We were just talking about this in Sunday School. We got to wondering where some folks had wandered off too. Like the ones you mentioned who “walked the aisle” then disappeared. It’s a huge problem, and it largely our fault, as we do little to teach new converts the things they need to know, and the responsibilities they now have. I remember it well myself as a new convert; people just aren’t that eager to take another under their wing and make a commitment to helping them along. I actually asked one of our Deacons to do that for me. I knew I knew nothing, but I also had a strong sense that there was a lot more out there. I pretty much invaded his life LOL. He was awesome, too. I think he really wanted something like that actually. Now, he is my partner in crime in teaching, witnessing and working with other newer believers. Just the other day we were talking about how it’s time for us to break up He said, “I taught you, now you need to teach somebody else, and so do I.”

    Good stuff, as always, Becky.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Wally. I’m glad you had the courage and fortitude and insight to seek out someone to disciple you. I think we might be afraid of offending someone if we ask if they want us to disciple them. It comes across, or can, as if we are looking down our spiritual noses.

      Prayer is the key.

      We have great opportunities when someone first makes a profession of faith to lead them into the path of following Jesus. I was fortunate because I was raised in a Christian home and had parents who believed in being involved in a local church. But fewer and fewer people are going to have that kind of experience, I think.

      Anyway, praise God He provided us with what we need when we were new in the faith.



      • Thanks Becky. Although it certainly wasn’t courage of fortitude at all. I was…empty. It really wasn’t much of a stretch to know that something had to fill that spot. Without that gutted feeling I would have never know I even needed Jesus, and to realize I was not done yet seemed really natural and honestly pretty easy. What you said about not offending…that’s very true. It can come across like we feel superior. Good point.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post. Growing up, I was taught how to read, understand, and defend my Bible. I knew how to defend my faith, but I didn’t exactly know how to share it. I didn’t have anyone’s example in that area. Lots of people were hospitable, charitable, loving, and knowledgeable, but I saw very few solid converts… in fact, I saw lots of people simply vanish. 😕 I think you’re right—we need to get back to our primary purpose: making disciples.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Elihu. I do think we as a Church here in America have been less inclined to teach believers how to share our faith. We’re more apt to have ways to serve people physically but not instruction about ways to open a conversation about our spiritual lives.


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