A few weeks ago I passed a community church with a reader board that said simply “Lukewarm Church.” I was tempted to visit that church just to find out what the heck the guy who put up the sign was thinking.
The metaphor of temperature is a good one for communities of followers of Jesus.
We’ve all been to cold churches, right? The music is stiff, the people greet only their friends, and children either invisible or shushed. Such churches often have endowments and music directors who love William Byrd.
“Lukewarm church” might describe church where the most closely-held value is a negative one: lack of conflict. Choices are made with a view toward upsetting the least number of people. In very small communities, a new idea is often squelched because it might upset even one person.
And then there is cool church. There was an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal recently titled “the perils of ‘wannabe cool’ Christianity.” It turns out young people are more interested in Jesus than the latest cutting edge technology. While churches trying to be “cool” may be more intentional than churches that are cold or lukewarm, the intention itself can distract from the work of following Jesus.
What about hot church? What if a thriving, porous Christian community is not a community in which there is no division, no dissent, but a community in which conflict is expected? A hot church is a church willing to be uncomfortable in order to be faithful. Friction is almost always necessary to start fires, after all. A hot church is a church that works to reflect God’s peace of mercy, compassion, and justice, without worrying about “keeping the peace” in the worldly sense. A hot church is a church where the Holy Spirit is running wild and setting hearts on fire with the same kind of zeal that Jesus has for his mission of healing and reconciliation.