Evangelicals: What Happens to Your Luke-Warm Members

I have a question for evangelical and pentecostal type Christians. Your churches seem to be full of people with a great love and passion for Christ. This is in contrast to a tendency for Catholic parishes to have a large number of cultural Catholics who accept the faith in some way but aren’t passionate about it. Assuming that in the families of people in evangelical churches, there must be lukewarm believers, my question is: What happens to those people?

Do they get kicked out of the church for not being passionate? Do they just go away on their own? Or do they pretend to be passionate to blend in? Or is there actually something about your faith communities that prevents people from becoming lukewarm?

When I was a teen we attended the Nazarene church. We had our “Xmas” and “Easter” members…for the most part they stay on the rolls. Depending on the organization of each local congregation…if they have “home visitation” then usually those who do not attend on a regular basis are visited on a regular basis. The pastor called on them as well.

Every once in a while membership was “purged”…those who had not attended in a long time were contacted to see if they still wanted their names on the rolls.

Unless a severe breech of conduct was committed, some stayed on the rolls for years. The Sunday School Superintendant of the congregation we attended had an affair with the pianist…both were “excommunicated” and a letter of “disipline” was issued.

If they joined another congregation their names were removed as “active members”.

It seems to me that a lot of people fake being passionate to fit in at my church. We have a lot of people that truly love God and try to do the right things but we have others who come more for the fellowship. This has, in the past, created something of a Country Club atmosphere and a lot of people act to fit in.
The other case are the ones that rarely show up, Christmas, Easter, etc. and the ones that simply go away. In my experience, a lot of the people that are lukewarm jump from church to church because they can never get over that one thing they disagree with at each church.

There are a lot of people who are sencere, and a lot of people who just put on an act for Sunday. No one gets removed for being “lukewarm”, but in some churches you may be left out for acting inpassionate (sincere or not). I’ll find out if some churches ever purge memberships (apparently my baptist church from my childhood never did).

As I recall from my sixteen plus years as an evangelical that a lot of people just attended a church without joining and many did just warm the pews. The last evangelical church I attended required a member to work in a ministry at the church. But this rule didn’t seem to be enforced. Members were strongly encouraged to leave at times, I believe, but I never heard about anyone being kicked out or dropped, even for non-attendance.

About 20% of the attenders did most of the work.

Before the final edit of the tape is broadcast it is cut so you don’t notice them as much

…i know of instances where those who unabashedly and in full view, practice contrary to the mission of their churches mandate’s, doctrine’s or accepted practices will get “Churched”. That just means that a pastor or commitee makes a decision that it is time for you to go. Other then that, I would venture to say that like most Catholic churches, you just keep your transgressions to your self, and just go along to get along.



By the way, I love this topic.

I currently belong to one right now that is not as warm as others I have attended during moves in the past. It’s a mega church that does have some jolly members.

As for the others, if attendees are not initially warm, they tend to either become that way adapting to the atmosphere or leave as I’m guessing that they don’t feel as thought they fit. There are some that will attend around Christmas or Easter. They are sometimes tagged with the moniker “Back Row Baptists”.

No one is actually kicked out for not being passionate. Of course, I am speaking only on the Evangelical side. By passion, I mean warm and friendly. We have a little bit more of a conservative manner than Pentecostals. We tend to be inviting towards people and others respond to it.

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.”

Depends on the person, and it depends on what they want to do. If they have a lot of family (biological family) in a particular church, they’ll probably be more likely to show up and/or be involved to the extent that they’re satisfied. If they’re operating more on their own, they’ll be more likely to start noticing that the pastor repeats some of the same stories from year to year and they’re more likely to check out something new and different. If you don’t make any strong connections or have any to begin with, it’s really easy to cut ties and join up somewhere else. And I guess the alternative is to drop out of church attendance altogether.

I think the lukewarm thing has a lot to do with much of the “church-hopping” that happens, and I also think this is generally recognized within the connotation of that term. But on a more individual level, I don’t think a less-lukewarm person is likely to raise the issue with a more-lukewarm person. For example, people who care about getting involved and making connections will express general disfavor toward the broader practice of being lukewarm, but it won’t usually come up with individuals who show up at their church. If someone’s new, it’s pretty common to ask them “So where are you from originally? You from around here? (And either way) what were you up to with church stuff before this, and how’d you wind up here?” If the answer to this question indicates that the previous church was pretty identical in terms of theology but there was no particular reason for leaving except a change of scenery, more well-established members will generally express thankfulness for how they’ve avoided serious drama and conflict in the past while hoping that things will be different now and the new people will become more well-established at the new place.

So I suppose that could be seen as tacit approval…but you could also see it as a tendency to major in positive reinforcement for those who do get involved while minimizing negative punishment for those who stay lukewarm and hop around a bit. Perhaps more could be done in order to discourage lukewarm tendencies, but this whole “discouragement” thing in general is a bit tricky to pull off. I don’t think it’s a good idea for less-lukewarm people to identify themselves as such and then give people a hard time if they’re more lukewarm, but it is an issue that some churches do need to address in some way. It’s the kind of thing you have to be careful with.

Do they get kicked out of the church for not being passionate? Do they just go away on their own? Or do they pretend to be passionate to blend in?

The first one is rare, and an almost non-existent practice for simple “lack of passion.” The general goal is to help people get more involved and be more passionate, and the first option isn’t ever going to help that happen. The second one is probably the most common one; people will generally stop going to church on their own or go somewhere else. You do everything you can to get people in and get them involved, but if they don’t want to or for whatever reason it’s not happening, they go elsewhere and I guess you just hope they find a decent alternative. I don’t think the last one is quite as common, but I’m not completely confident that my level of in-depth personal experience is sufficient to give you an idea of the overall picture. I’m inclined to say most people will only fake it for so long and generally not do so long-term, but it depends on the church and the exact situation. And my experience is probably different from others. But that’s mine.

Or is there actually something about your faith communities that prevents people from becoming lukewarm?

I think the nature of the clergy-laity relationship is such that a more Protestant-type structure is less conducive to lukewarm behavior than a Catholic-type structure. I don’t know that I can identify specific preventative measures; rather, I tend to think of the strengths and weaknesses of each structure and generally observe that a more RC-type approach does more things that will lead to a more lukewarm laity whereas a more Protestant-type approach typically does less of these things.

Thanks for all of the responses. That helps a lot regarding people’s lack of enthusiasm.

There’s another aspect of lukewarmness that I’m thinking of as well. I’m thinking of the person who complains about what the preacher said and contracits him to other people after the service. For example, “what business does he have talking about , I don’t agree with that at all”.

What happens to people like that in evangelical churches?

In this case I think several things can happen, one is family that disagrees with pastors statements simply goes over to church xyz where they have a position more in line with their line of thought. Second outcome is if its a influential/persuasive family within church they may get enough people on their ideological/theological camp and to start another church. Third option is, approach pastor with concerns, either pastor changes/clarifies position and things return to normal or may be forced out so the vocal part of congregation get someone who is in their camp

Okay, just to set your expecations, if and when you become Catholic - the above ratio probably won’t change in a Catholic parish.

To be honest, in almost all human organizations I have ever been in: churches, army, boy scouts, work, this is pretty much the case. Most of the work is done by the active few.

Maybe if we were a different species… like ants.

Just out of curiosity, what is the litmus test for being luke-warm or a “good” parishoner? I just take the advice of Thomas a Kempis in the Imitation of Christ----assume everyone around me is holier and better Christians than myself, focusing on my own shortcomings, weaknesses, and failures rather than branding people “cafeteria Catholics” and “luke warm.” I don’t think this is a healthy approach to Christianity.

It depends on the size of the church. If the number of adults showing up on a weekly basis is anywhere from 100 to 300, you can’t get by with 20% participation. I think this tends to be truer of larger congregations. This topic came up a few months back at one of my primary church homes and we talked it over as a group, did a quick count of how many people are serving in some way that makes things possible every week (sunday school, music, preaching, opening/closing, AV, ushers, nursery) and by our estimate, at least 70% of the adults that show up on a weekly basis have some kind of responsibility and people are depending on them to be there for one reason or another. Then we did a little bit of a mental exercise in order to see what it would be like if only 20% of our congregation made meaningful contributions, and from what I remember, we sort of realized we wouldn’t be able to function on a weekly basis if participation was that low. Either that or we’d need a bigger sanctuary and an extra 3 or 400 people to fill chairs- which would kind of make sense, because you really need just a handful of extra people in participating roles for every 100 extra rears that fill seats. As is, though, we generally have around 100 adults coming into the sanctuary each week, and well over half of them need to be there in order to get something done. And that just covers the morning service- a small church is like a small high school in some ways. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise when every kid participates in something and most of them are involved in 2 or 3 sports and activities throughout the year. With a much smaller school, you need that level of participation just so you can continue having those teams/groups/clubs. It’s the bigger schools where most of the student body functions only as “the student body.”

In that regard, Catholic parishes are obviously a lot bigger than most Protestant churches. Catholic parishes average over 4,000 people per, and it’s only the really large Protestant megachurches that do anything like that. Averages for the main Protestant denominations generally range from 200 to 500.

I don’t dispute the overall figure showing that 20% of a congregation does meaningful work. But I will suggest that a range does exist and that smaller churches tend to represent the higher numbers in that range, whereas the very large congregations can easily get by with much less than 20% of the laity doing much of anything.

Good point. Smaller organizations are likely more accountable and probably acheive higher proportions of participation. I could never loaf that much at home with my brother around. Somehow Mom always found out. :shrug:

Hi Gurney,

My question about lukewarm people at church is that I’m afraid they’ll be a bad influence on me. I’m affected by peer pressure more than I should be, so I want to go to a church where our morals will be reinforced by the people there. But that has to be balanced somehow with welcoming sinners, and I was just curious how evangelicals do that. Also, if you had to be perfect I suppose I wouldn’t be allowed at that parish either. :slight_smile:

Maybe I should work on being less susceptible to peer pressure instead of worrying about who goes to church? But peer pressure is very real, we’re all affected by the people we surround ourselves with.

Unfortunately even going to church is full of temptations. Joseph Varga, another poster on here, and I were talking about all the low cut blouses and super duper short skirts and skin-tight jeans girls wear to Mass. Some of the best-looking gorgeous women are at Mass. Honestly there are more gorgeous women at Mass than on the beach. It’s not easy for men. Then you throw in the temptations to laziness and laxity that you mention, and you’re right.

I guess you have to be stubborn, pray hard about your temptations, stay focused on the sacrifice of the Mass and remember that all the angels, saints, the BVM, and the Lord are present as the Sacrifice is taking place at the altar and our salvation is upon us. Keep your eyes and mind on that altar, that cup, that paten, that priest, and the Christian hope. What people do around us, within reason, just has to disappear and we have to assume we’re the biggest sinner in the room.

It’s tough, I won’t argue there!

I assumed you were talking about the style of the service. It seems that I have been alone in addressing that aspect.

Look at the language used going to stay focused on a ** sacrifice** by contrast on my church’s public bulletin board we list the start time of the **celebration **service. It just seems easier to me to be passionate about celebrated then sacrificing

The same thing that happens to all who are lukewarm toward Jesus regardless of religion?

“But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.”
~~ Revelation 3:16

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