One of my favorite things to do is read (as the overflowing bookshelves in my office will tell you). I try to balance my reading between church-related books and books “for fun.” My favorite kinds of church books are the ones that challenge me, inspire me and get me thinking beyond the printed page. Come to think of it, the Bible does all three of those things pretty well!
My latest church book is Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan. I’d heard a lot of about this book but had not read it. I kept meaning to pick it up but my book pile was already pushing against the ceiling tiles. Then, I found it on my desk one morning, a gift from a congregation member. OK, God, I get it, I’ll read the book!
The back quote was intriguing: “With an urgency that seeks to awaken a sleeping church mired in the comfort of the middle ground, Crazy Love gets to the heart of the matter and leaves you wanting more – more of the matchless Jesus who offers radical life for all.” Sounds like my kind of book!
Like most books I thoroughly enjoy, I didn’t agree with everything Chan writes and there are some parts that I’m still mulling over. Chan does indeed challenge the church to leave its comfort zone and seek a more radical relationship with God. That’s much easier written than done, but I appreciate the stick of dynamite Chan has lit under people who read Crazy Love.
In one of the chapters, “Profile of the Lukewarm,” Chan gives a snapshot of what a comfortable church might look like, using as his blueprint the passage in Revelation 2:15-18 about the church at Laodicea: “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. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
Chan says a modern-day lukewarm churchgoers would exhibit certain recognizable traits. Here are some of them:
- Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe “good Christians” do, so they go.
- Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the church, as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it’s easy and safe to give, they do so.
- Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They care more about what people think about their actions than what God thinks about their hearts and lives.
- Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin.
- Lukewarm people say they love Jesus and He is, indeed a part of their lives. But only a part.
There are more, but I’ll stop there. The question for me wasn’t if I saw myself in these, but in how many. What I take from this is not that we should be perfect in our beliefs and our actions. We shouldn’t feel guilty that we can’t always live out our faith as we are called to do. But on the flipside, we also should never allow ourselves to get so comfortable and complacent in our faith that we forget we are always called to move forward in our relationship with God. If each of us made the commitment to make one small step toward God each day, what impact would that have on our lives…the church…the world?