The Lethal Effects of Spiritual Lethargy
The story is told of a church custodian who was heard to say, “The blower still works, but the fire has gone out.” He was relating a problem to the service man about the church furnace, but the pastor overheard his comment, and thought he was talking about him.
The custodian’s statement fittingly applies to many ministers in our present day as passionless preachers have led the way of spiritual indifference in many churches.
Richard Baxter said, “…a sleepy preacher will hardly awaken drowsy sinners. A sermon full of mere words, how neatly soever it be composed, while it lacks the light of evidence and the life of zeal, is but an image or a well-dressed carcass.”
Wesley Duewel in his book Ablaze for God exhorts, “If you as a leader lack a burning heart, few of your people will be known for their burning hearts, and they will make little impact on the world about them. Our communities are little impressed by our programs and manifold activities. It takes more than a busy church to impact a community for Christ. It must be a church ablaze, led by leaders who are ablaze for God.”
Jesus Christ grieves over present day ministers who for a lack of fire in their ministry attempt to create their own. Isaiah 50:11 warns, “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” Void of holy fire, many have bowed the knee to the god of pragmatism and made “what works” lord.
The nature of genuine passion is not fanaticism. A self-induced zeal without God’s truth genders an emotion that leaves people “hollow” and disillusioned after the hype has died. True fervor is a burning zeal for God that constrains a man to live for Christ by desiring nothing but opportunities for promoting His glory, preaching His truth, and winning lost men to the Savior. This spiritual passion is maintained and cultivated by faithfulness in one’s walk with Christ.
Without exception, the spiritual leaders in church history who made a mark upon their generation for Jesus Christ refused to let their fervor for Him be quenched by the deadening effects of ministerial lethargy. It was said of George Whitefield that “…he knew no abate of passion. To the end of his remarkable career his soul was a furnace of burning zeal for the salvation of men.”
What churches need today are ministers of holy zeal. Men who are unwavering in their devotion to Christ.
How tragic that we live in a day when so many ministers who believe the Bible as the Word of God have fallen into a “maintenance mode”. Planning for early retirement they live like the people of Laish in Judges 18:7, “quiet and secure”. Absent of vision and vigor, they witness the lethal effects of their own indifference in the lives of the very people to whom they minister.
Wesley Duewel warns, “A passionless Christianity will not put out the fires of hell. The best way to fight a raging forest fire is with fire. A passionless leader will never set the people ablaze.” While Ian Murray admonished, “a dull, halfhearted, lukewarm preacher is no where to be found in the Acts of the Apostles.”
In this hour may every Bible believing minister resolve to guard his heart against the deadening influence of self-satisfaction. May we stir up ourselves to lay hold of our God and His promises that we may be a “burning and shining light” before a watching world.