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Eight Signs That You May Be 
a Lukewarm Christian

The concept of a “lukewarm Christian” comes from Revelation 3, where John criticizes a church for being full of believers who were neither hot nor cold—not cold, dead, or unbelieving, but not on fire for Jesus, either. He basically said, “I l like hot coffee and cold brew, but if it’s room temp, I want to spew it out of my mouth” (cf. Revelation 3:16).

Lukewarm Christians are those people who sit in churches and believe the message of the gospel, but they are not really sold out to Jesus, and they are not meaningfully engaged in his mission.

It is these kinds of “Christians” that Jesus is describing in three parables in Matthew 25. The maidens (Matthew 25:1-13) consider themselves friends of the bridegroom, but they don’t live in a way that anticipates his return. They are thinking only about how to make things comfortable in the present moment, not how to be faithful in their assignment to God. The wicked servant (Matthew 25:14-30) considers himself in the employ of the Master, but he’s never offered his talents without reserve for the kingdom. The “goats” (Matthew 25:31-46) are surprised to be rejected by Jesus, who they thought they were faithfully serving. But when it came to pouring themselves out for the crushed people of God, they weren’t engaged at all.

Here’s the sobering thing about these parables: there is no middle ground. You are either committed to the mission, all-in for Jesus, and using your resources for his people and his kingdom, or you are not. You are either a sheep or a goat. And that puts the lukewarm Christian in a very precarious position.

One of the details in these parables that has always gripped me is how, in the parable of the talents, Jesus called the one who buried his talent “wicked.” That’s a harsh word for someone who just played it safe. I’ve often thought, “What wicked thing had he done?” He didn’t steal it, gamble it, or spend it on prostitutes and drugs. He gave every penny back!

It shows you that there is more than one way to be wicked. You can be wicked by ignoring the Ten Commandments, and you can be wicked by failing to invest your life for God’s kingdom. The first makes you wicked by the sin of commission; the second makes you wicked by the sin of omission.

We preach about the first a lot, but what about the latter? Have you offered your life and your talents, no matter your age, as an investment in the kingdom? Could we look at your giving and say that you are all-in with the mission of God? Would your calendar back up what your words say when you declare, “Jesus is Lord”?

In his book, Crazy Love, Francis Chan gives a profile of the lukewarm Christian, which you could say comes straight from these three parables. These people are all fairly regular attenders in church, but:

  • Lukewarm Christians don’t really want to be saved from their sin. They want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. God is a useful fire escape they employ, not a God they worship.

  • Lukewarm Christians are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not do radical things themselves. What they call “radical” is what Jesus expects of all his followers.

  • Lukewarm Christians equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness. But Jesus didn’t call us to sanitation; he called us to discipleship. If you are his follower, your life will not be defined only by avoiding sin, but also by entering into his suffering and fulfilling his mission.

  • Lukewarm Christians rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. Like Charles Spurgeon said, “You are either a missionary or an impostor!”

  • Lukewarm Christians think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven.

  • Lukewarm Christians love their luxuries and rarely give to the poor in a truly sacrificial way. 

  • Lukewarm Christians do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. David Platt says, “If you’re not in a place where you feel desperate for the Spirit of God, then there’s no way you are on the front lines of the mission. When we are on the front lines, we feel desperately our need for God’s help.”

  • Lukewarm Christians give God their leftovers—not their first and best. Stop calling your complacency and apathy “a busy schedule” or “bills” or “forgetfulness.” Call it what it is: evil (Malachi 1:8).

We all struggle with seasons where we are lukewarm, where we are striving to maintain a commitment to Christ but where we falter. I’ve been there, too.

But the fundamental question is this: When you became a Christian, did it include a surrender to get engaged in the mission of God? Have you personally engaged in the mission of God, offering your time, talent, and treasures as a blank check to him? If not, you are not his follower!

Rev. J. D. Greear, President
Southern Baptist Convention

Taking a Deep Breath
Sometimes I take a deep breath and appreciate what is happening across the Florida Conference. I want you to know more about Shoes for Hope at the Grace Church campuses in Cape Coral Southwest Florida in 2015. I want you to know more about the conversations on race this summer at Grace UMC in St. Augustine. I want you to know more about the ministry with the homeless that happens at The Portico in downtown Tampa, the former site of First UMC.

I want you to know more about the mission teams that are rebuilding homes and repairing roofs almost a year after Hurricane Irma in towns like Sebring. I want you to know about adults being baptized this summer in churches like Cornerstone in Naples and Bay Hope in Lutz.

I want you to know about women of color beginning to serve as lead pastors in strong congregations like Juana Jordan at First St. Augustine and Esther Rodriguez at Spring of Life in Orlando. I want you to know about prayers being lifted for Betsy Ouellette of Good Samaritan during her open heart surgery yesterday.

I want you to know about more than one hundred college students on staff at Warren Willis Camp this summer, about the thousands of children who will be there over these weeks, and the pastors who give their time to preach and lead worship.

I want you to know about retired pastors like Jim Harnish and Dan Johnson who have stepped in and are serving as interim pastors in two strategic churches. I want you to know that we have crossed the threshold of 150 Fresh Expressions of Church across our conference and it is continuing to grow. I want you to know that Cypress Lake UMC in Fort Myers is funding the Methodist Seminary in Old Havana, Cuba, for the next three years.

I am only touching the surface here. Where am I going with this?  We are not a perfect church. But in the midst of narratives that assume we must dissolve or divide, I want to say: Take a deep breath. It is not your church or mine. The church is people, earthen vessels God has chosen to entrust the treasure of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4). The church is a place that gives women and men the opportunity to live out their callings.

And where we are not who we ought to be, before God, the church is a way of life that allows us to forgive and be forgiven, to speak the truth in love, be a part of each other's healing and sanctification, to share our bread in feeding the multitudes and each other and to proclaim the word of God with the people of God. Read Bonhoeffer's Life Together; before we complain about the church, we are called to pray for the church and build it up.

The good news is that this is actually happening. I want you to know about it. As I begin my seventh year as bishop of the Florida Conference, my gratitude for the people of our conference deepens. Six years ago, I was assigned to Florida. It was an extraordinary blessing then. And it continues to be so.

Bishop Kenneth Carter
Florida United Methodist Church
Bishop Kenneth Carter