This is a good question and discussion topic.
First, everyone should know that my husband and I were kicked out of an Evangelical Free Church in America (that’s the name of the denomination). A woman pastor (children’s pastor) was jealous of my success in various children’s ministries in the church (e.g., my children’s choir grew from 24 children to over 60 children in two years).
The pastor trumped up several false and heinous charges against me, including the accusation that I was “scaring the children.” This pastor swore that parents had come to her with objections about me. BTW, parents were always present in my children’s activities and no parent had ever come to me with issues or written me with any complaints.
A tribunal was held, which involved several men that had never even met us. None of the parents of any of the children were present to offer their testimony or endorsement.
We were told that we were undermining the church authorities, which in the EFCA, are the local pastors, including this woman pastor. There is no “national authority” or “governing national board” of the EFCA.
We were told to leave. From then on, we were shunned by the church members.
The parents of the children that I worked with were told that I chose to leave. A few years later, at the advice of a Protestant pastor that I still trusted (from another church), I wrote a letter to these parents explaining briefly my side of what had happened. The pastor checked my letter before I sent it, and approved of what I had written.
I received many sweet letters back from the parents, who told me that they had been dumfounded when I walked away from their children. They told me as a group that none of them had ever had any objections to my ministry with their children; on the contrary, they loved having their children in my choirs and teaching settings. They were angry that their pastors had lied to them about me.
The woman pastor had been lying through her teeth about us. Interestingly, that woman pastor was eventually caught in a lie (apparently involving church monies), and was fired from her position. No one from that church ever contacted my husband and me to let us know that perhaps they had been wrong about us.
So we know all about the nasty side of evangelical Protestantism. Our story is horrifying. We really should be on “The Journey Home,” but the show would have to carry a warning that it isn’t suitable for the faint of heart.
That being said, I will say that for the first 47 years of my life, my experienes in evangelical Protestant churches were pure joy, love, and for the most part, peace. Anytime 500 people get together in one space, there will be occasional disturbance in the peace!
Yes, 10% of the people did 90% of the work. That’s true in any organization, church or otherwise. I was one of hte 10%. My husband and I were uber-involved. Our list of ministries would exceed the space limits of this forum. We could have been elected Evangelicals of the Decade several decades.
But we all understood that we had NO RIGHT to judge those who appeared to be lukewarm.
Often, those people were involved in ministries outside of the church, totally anonymous ministries that no one knew about except God and the people who were benefiting from those ministries.
Many people cared for elderly or disabled loved ones, or were involved with deep friendships with shut-in neighbors. These people had little time to volunteer for VBS or join a cottage prayer circle or go on the Women’s Retreat or help out at the Men’s Clean Up Day.
Many people were involved in ministries in their workplace. We called these ministries “Friendship Evangelism.” Just by being a Christian in the workplace and being a constant, reliable, and good employee, these people were giving witness to Jesus Christ. Several evangelical leaders wrote books about friendship evangelism, most notably Rebecca Pippert, Ann Kiemal, and Paul Little.
In the same way, many people were involved in various secular activities like sports, arts, politics, etc. that left them with little time for “church work.” And that was OK–these people were “out in the trenches,” doing the work of a missionary in their own mission field.
And of course, many many people were involved in extensive prayer ministries, and spent several hours each day praying for all of us who were involved in more obvious ministries in the church.
Finally, there were plenty of men and women who were involved in the most important ministry of all–their own “domestic church”, that is, their families. Evangelicals agree with Catholics that the most important ministry that anyone can be involved with is nurturing their marriage and raising their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. These ministries often leave people with little or no time to be involved with “church” ministries.
When it came to judging people as “lukewarm” based on their enthusiastic singing, worship styles, etc.–no way. We all knew that worship and reverence is in the soul, and that just because someone was swaying and raising their hands and crying while they sang was no indication of the inner state of their soul. People can fake ecstasy (porn relies on that). We knew that only God can judge whether a person is in a “right relationship” with Himself.
I think that we all need to be careful to “brighten the corner where WE are” and not fret about others and their lukewamness. That’s the evangelical Protestant viewpoint on “lukewarmness.”