Why “Lukewarm” Will Never Do (May-Jun 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

By Scott Sager
May-June 2002

Imagine for a moment, that the resurrected Lord Jesus decided to call a meeting of the entire churched world around 95 A.D. Jesus decided that the First Global Christian Conference would be held in Asia—and be hosted by one of the seven main churches located there. Because the Apostle John was intimately connected to these churches, Jesus asked him to send a memo to the Asian churches from his exiled location on the island of Patmos, and inform them of his decision. John was to tell the churches that a delegation of angels would be making its way through the seven churches, doing an on-site visit at each location.

 

The seven churches in Asia sprung into action to prepare their bid to host this prestigious event. The churches contacted influential members, and even brought the local Chamber of Commerce in to help with the bidding. The church selected to host would certainly bolster the economy of the city—and win a public relations queue at the same time. The delegation of angels first arrived in Ephesus, where a very fine presentation was developed for the angel delegation. Once the angels finished their time in Ephesus a report was filed to John at Patmos, and then the delegation went on to the next city. The delegation went from Ephesus to Smyrna, and then on to Pergamum. In each city the host committee put on a splendid bid, and after each presentation the angel delegation filed a report with the apostle John. The angel delegation went to Thyatira, then to Sardis, then to Philadelphia and finally was about to arrive at the seventh city, Laodecia.

 

The reporters covering these bids for the Christian Chronicle felt that the competition would basically come down to two cities, Ephesus or Laodecia. Ephesus had gone first, and made such a memorable bid that it still stood out in the minds of the reporters. Laodecia had the benefit of going last, and also had the most money to spend on the actual bidding process. Everything about the Laodecian bid was scripted out, rehearsed, refined and polished for the arrival of the angel delegation.

 

When the angels arrived at Laodecia, they saw the most beautiful of the seven cities. The city was considered a jewel of Asia, and the delegation arrived when the flowers were in bloom and the colors of spring were at their peak. The church in Laodecia was considered to be cutting edge—they had all the latest programs, the latest technologies and the finest of resources. The church had been founded by Paul, and was seen as a dynamic church, and a hot property for visiting preachers who longed to fill her pulpit.

 

The Laodecian bid committee was ready when the angel delegation arrived. Each angel was placed in his own stretch chariot for a tour around the city. A Laodecian coat made out of the finest Laodecian wool (the pure, black shiny wool that was the envy of the fashion world of the day) was presented to each angel—and every coat had been tailored to the exact size and wing dimensions of the angel. In addition, every angel received a Laodecian bracelet with the initials “WDIBOS” inscribed upon it. The angels began to ask about the bracelets, and what they meant—and the Laodecian hosts promised to explain when they arrived in downtown.

 

The stretch chariots took the angel delegation through a most impressive city to the middle of downtown, to a square located there with a beautiful marble statue in the center. The statue was a picture of rescue workers lifting and rebuilding the walls of Laodecia. Below the statue was an inscription that read, “We Did It By Our Selves.” The statue was in honor of the people of Laodecia who had rebuilt their own city in AD 60 without any help or financial aid from Rome and the Roman government. This event had become the rallying cry for the city, and the source of her identity in many ways. All their money had printed on the back, “We did it by our selves.” The most popular selling T-Shirt in the city had the same slogan upon it. Every politician closed his speech with the words, “And remember, Laodecia is a city where we did it by our selves!” Laodecia was a city that had pulled herself up by the boot-straps, and there was a sense of pride and accomplishment there that was quite infectious to the delegation of angels.

 

The host bid committee took the angels on a tour of the church located just off the square. When the angels heard the choir singing, filling the hall with a bold sound, one of the Laodecian presenters looked at the angels and said, “They’re hot, in a good way, aren’t they?” The angels thought that an odd, but clever, new expression. Next they introduced the angel delegation to their preacher, a dynamic man known around the area for preaching messages that filled the air-ways and impressed the city aristocracy with their eloquence—the angels assumed he must be a “hot” preacher. The angels toured the church’s many and varied programs of ministry, and saw all the hustle and bustle of a cutting edge church. Then they met the elders who kept themselves busy with the affairs of such a finely run machine.

 

The visiting committee of angels asked for a few minutes with the host committee and the elders—wanting to have a brief formal interview. One of the angels said, “Your host bid has been quite impressive in every way, but I have a question. How badly do you really want to host this First Global Christian Conference?” The elders answered, “We think it would be nice, and a fitting tribute to the quality of ministry we do here at Laodecia.” Another angel asked, “How much money will you need from other churches to help offset the costs of the event?” The elders then smiled at each other and one said, “This is Laodecia, we will do it all our selves!” Another angel asked about hotels…”The best in Asia,” was the reply. Someone else asked about healthcare…”The finest in Asia, the finest in the world for those with eye ailments, by the way.” Another angel asked, “What about the commemorative T-Shirts; can you do them?” The bid committee laughed, and someone showed them the black wool shirts already designed with a beautiful logo, and on the sleeve the initials, “WDIBOS—Laodecia A.D. 95.”

 

As the angels were about to leave and file their report, one of the angels asked the host committee one last question, “Is there anything you need, or anything you want to mention to Jesus?” The committee members looked around, and then the head of the bid committee answered, “Tell Jesus we are a ‘Can Do’ town, and a ‘Can Do’ church. Remind him that if he turns the conference over to us we can handle it, and will take care of everything.”

 

The angels sent in the Laodecian bid to John on the island of Patmos. When it arrived, John took all seven bids and laid them on a table before the Lord. Then John prayed, and asked the Lord to tell him what he should write in response to every church. Here is the response Jesus sent to the church in Laodecia….

 

“Dear church in Laodecia, your bid to host the First Global Christian Conference has been rejected. Before you assume that the judging was unfair, or that another city bought off one of the angel judges understand this: I was the only vote in determining this outcome. You received a fair hearing from me, and it cannot get any truer than that. I am the faithful and true witness assessing your bid, and I saw it clearly since I see everything.

 

Here is the problem I saw when we visited your church: You think you are ‘hot’ when you are actually just ‘lukewarm.’ In my church, lukewarm will never do. You see, I would like for you to be hot, with a faith that is truly on fire. If you were hot, then when all the other churches gathered in Laodecia they could catch a spark and catch ablaze as well. Hot churches bring about revival—I wish you were one! Believe it or not, if you will not be hot, then my next choice would be for you to be ‘cold.’ You see, if your faith were frigid then every other church that came to the conference would be able to tell your not a model church—and no one would want to be like you.

 

However, lukewarm will never do. You see, a lukewarm church just seems to mess up everyone who comes in contact with it. Christians who are “hot” get labeled as fanatics and quickly cool to lukewarm as well. Christians who are frigid look at the lukewarm folks and see no real difference—and decide being cold must be “good enough.” To be honest, you are lukewarm, and nothing turned my stomach when I walked this earth quite like lukewarm milk. I drank it once—and spewed it out as fast as I could. By the way, that is what I did with your bid as well—spewed it out fast.

 

Whenever possible, you seem to boast about your own self-sufficiency—“We Did It By Our Selves.” You seem to think you are rich in every way, and that there is no problem you cannot tackle and lick on your own. You claim to be rich, and have no need of me. You claim to be rich, but all I saw out of your church was a group of people who were sick and miserable. You boast in your money, but I think you are poor. You boast in your medical advances, but I see you as blind. You boast in your fancy clothing, but I see you as naked—walking around shamefully throughout the city.

 

But here is the good news: It’s not too late to shape things up. Here is what I would advise you to do: Quit buying into your own self-sufficiency and start buying into faith in me. You cannot do it all by your selves—and you never could. What you need is some of the golden faith I have refined in the fire (It’s not faith in yourselves, but faith in me). You can only get that kind of faith by asking me for it . Then you will be truly rich, and clothed in a way that fits your faith. It’s time to repent of “We Did It All By Our Selves,” and to put your faith in me.

 

For those that are willing, I will be by later for a visit. I will arrive around dinner time, and will knock on the door so you’ll know I have arrived. If you are ready to let me be your source of sufficiency open the door—and I’ll bring you a great dinner! We can sit down to eat, and get things back like they used to be.

 

–Sincerely, Jesus Christ”

 

 

When the Laodecian church heard the letter read, there was a quiet like had never come upon the church before. They were not used to losing, and especially to being taken to task like that. Several began to get up and leave the church grumbling to themselves. Others began to talk openly of bias among the angel delegation. Others insisted that Jesus had made a mistake, and that a letter of retraction would be coming soon.

 

A few from the church just sat in silence, and went home broken hearted over what Jesus had said. Several from this group decided they should gather that night back at the building for a time of prayer. Everyone was told of the meeting, but only a handful still had the fortitude after the disappointment to attend. They began to pray, and everything seemed a little better when they started praying. Then they began to sing, and the faith that had grown lukewarm began to catch aglow again. As they sang they began to notice someone among them was clapping to the beat of the music. They looked around to see who the renegade clapper was, and realized no one in the room actually was clapping. Then a youngster in the group remembered, it wasn’t someone clapping at all. Someone was knocking on the door! She got up from the group and ran to open the door, and when she flung it open– in walked Jesus!

 

Jesus was carrying dinner with him, and everyone could see the smoke teeming off the food. He blessed the food, and they all began to eat together. Once they tasted hot food again, lukewarm would never again do.

 

People from other churches often stopped by after that, wanting to know how an old, lukewarm church ever got hot again. The church would send all inquirers out to visit a young girl who would explain it this way…

 

“Once you throw open the doors again, Jesus comes back inside. And once you’ve tasted what Jesus is serving, nothing else will ever do.”

 

 If you’ve ever tasted that food, you know exactly what she means.

 

 

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This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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