The Lukewarm Church

It would be a mistake to think that the lukewarm church is inactive or unpopular.  The term “lukewarm” in Revelation 3:14-22 refers not to its size, wealth, activities or popularity, but to its spiritual temperature.  The church at Laodicea even had a measure of warmth.  It was not completely cold; neither, however, was it hot.  It was far from on fire for God.  In many ways it was more like a comfortable social club than a church.

The Laodicean church was quite wealthy.  The offerings were good.  They were able to carry out building projects and support other Christian work.  They were, outwardly at least, prosperous.  This implies good congregations, a large staff, comfortable well-designed buildings, and well-attended services – at least once a week.

The church was, however, somewhat self-satisfied, as they thought they had need of nothing.  Compared to other churches they were admired, as they were outwardly large, prosperous and flourishing.  But they sickened the Lord.  He said He would vomit them out of His mouth.

Christ’s eyes in John’s vision were like a flame of fire, penetrating into the depths of people’s hearts (Rev. 1:14).  To His penetrating gaze the church at Laodicea was wretched, falling far short of what a church was meant to be.  It was to be pitied, rather than admired.  Materially wealthy, it was in fact spiritually poor.  It was blind in that it could not see its own need, its powerlessness, its pride.  It was naked in that it was not clothed in the righteousness of Christ, not covered in the garments of holiness.  Spiritually poverty-stricken this church desperately needed the gold of true spirituality.  This gold is refined in the fire of suffering and persecution.  It needed the pure white garments of Christ-likeness, each  member living a Christ-glorifying life.  It needed its spiritual eyes to be anointed so that it could see things as they really were.  It lacked humility and spiritual discernment so that it could see its own need.

To be practical, what are some of the symptoms of a church ‘cooling off’, backsliding and becoming lukewarm?  One sure sign is a decline in prayer.  Numbers attending the prayer meetings fall away.  Or, if numbers do not greatly decrease because there are other reasons for attending, there is a lack of earnest, fervent participation in prayer.  Prayers are said by a few, but there is little reality.

Another sign is when leaders are appointed who are not noted for their spirituality.  They do not ‘lead’ in the sense that they are good examples in zeal, applied Bible knowledge, prayer and holy living.  Biblical standards (e.g. Exod. 18:21; Acts 6:3; I Tim. 3:1-13) are ignored or compromised.

Yet another sign is that there is little difference between the church members and their unsaved neighbours.  Young people begin to watch 18 rated films and drink alcohol regularly.  Worldliness becomes common among them (I John 2:15-17).  Discerning members may be troubled, but are afraid to say anything for fear of  ‘rocking the boat’ or being black-listed as ‘trouble makers’.

It may be very difficult to reverse the downwards trend.  It requires humility on the part of both leaders and members.  It requires sincere repentance (v. 19).  It will take strong Bible teaching and much prayer.  Jesus gives the answer.  Individual members can call upon Him to come into the situation (verse 20) and bring His purifying, cleansing, reviving power, through His Word and by His Spirit, so that the backslidden, lukewarm church may be restored to health once more.

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