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Is Your Church Full of Customers or Owners?

lukewarm christians

What is your church full of? Customers or owners? Let me start with a crisis point in my ministry that helped me to see the issue of lukewarm Christians more clearly.

When I planted a church in Pennsylvania, we started strong, particularly for the North, by growing to 125 the first year. We had 25 people in our core and 100 new people who came over the course of the first year.

Lukewarm Christians

But the new 100 people didn’t do anything. They were lukewarm Christians. They were passive spectators rather than active participants in the mission of God.

And so we recognized we had a cultural problem within the congregation.

Our church was full of customers so there was a culture of non-participation.

People came to be objects of ministry rather than co-laborers on mission. They wanted to be what I could call today “customers of the religious goods and services” distributed by our exciting new church.

And it was killing me.

Don’t Miss

I spent hour upon hour ministering, calling, working and begging others to do the same. It was not working, as people preferred to receive rather than to give.

So, we began to change the atmosphere to one of expectation that people will serve in ministry.

My motivation was not so complicated. What I tried to do was to shift the culture in my church from passivity to activity.

When new people came into our church, most of them connected to the 100 passive people instead of the 25 active. A bad situation with lukewarm Christians became worse.

So, we took a full year to make a change through preaching, teaching and training.

We realized we had to help people get it, so we did.

We launched an internal campaign that was driven by a compelling question: “How do we shape the value of active service into our people?”

And so over the course I preached messages about serving, we talked about it in small groups and we did a training campaign on it. Finally, we asked the 25 to put positive, gracious peer pressure on the 100.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, has earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and leads the Stetzer ChurchLeaders podcast. Ed is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week for bible story. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and serves as teaching pastor at Highpoint Church.