Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sermon Avoidance Does Not Make You "Lukewarm"

A couple of years ago a young Christian man told me that I was "lukewarm." He was referring to this passage:

14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 3:14-22, emphasis mine)

Let me provide a bit of context. At the time our family was gathering regularly with a few others families each Sunday in homes. We would sometimes see each other during the week, but for the most part our Sunday get together was the main time of fellowship. We shared in bible study, prayer, eating, and much conversation. It was almost always an edifying experience for me. We enjoyed being together.

One Sunday a young couple visited with us; they were invited by one of the other families in our group. I'm not sure why this couple came (maybe curiosity?) because the man clearly did not believe the way we were "doing church" was the right way. He was a very big supporter of sermons. He liked to discuss what preachers had said and written as part of their messages. Our church family had no need or desire for sermons.

Did I mention that this young man was only twenty-five-years-old at the time?

What I still do not understand is why this couple kept returning to our gatherings. It makes no sense to me. They were nice enough, but the way we functioned continued to bother them. One day it came to a head. The young man asked if he could meet with the elders of our church family. Several of us men (the older men of the body; nothing more than that) came together one evening in a home. The young man basically complained to us that the elders in our body needed to have more authority and that we should have sermons. We did not agree. I hope you see the irony here. The young man was saying that we should have authority, but he had no interest in our authority when it came to not having sermons. While making his case he kept referring back to one specific sermon he had heard and told us that we really needed to listen to it.

We kept asking him to support his assertions with scripture. He failed to do so. Eventually he told us that the real reason he wanted to meet with us was to tell us that we were "lukewarm." However, his only reason for saying this was because we did not preach and teach the bible the way he thought we should. He wanted someone to stand up front and give a typical monologue style sermon as in traditional churches. He equated this with caring for what the bible had to say. We disagreed.

It was clear to me that he saw himself as doing some sort of duty for God by rebuking us. He would not listen to what we had to say. We elders (all in our forties) were being rebuked by a twenty-five-year-old for not grabbing more authority. This encounter was both fascinating and disturbing.

This young man, while well-intentioned, was far off track. It was not long before they moved on. Last I knew they had moved near Houston, Texas to be part of Voddie Baucham's church.

I wish things could have turned out differently, but this young man would not listen. His error is in how he thinks of church life. In his mind zeal for God and ceremonial preaching go together. He believes that love for the Lord is most clearly shown by sitting and listening to a speech.

He is wrong.

None of us has to adhere to the typical traditional, institutional style of gathering in order to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact, I would argue that taking part in church meetings that seek to edify the body through mutuality is a sign of great care for Christ. According to the bible, that is to be the purpose of gatherings.

If you read this blog regularly then you probably have no use for sermons. Don't worry, that's fine. Sermon avoidance does not make you "lukewarm." Rather, it might just be a sign that you care about how God wants his church to live. As far as I'm concerned that is evidence of being just the opposite of lukewarm.

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