Thermometers and thermostats: which are you?

Thermometers can tell you what’s happening, but they can’t change anything. Enter the thermostat.

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Thermometers are useful tools.  They’re a quick, visual way of checking into reality.  You want to know whether to plan a barbecue or not? You want to know whether the meat on the barbecue is cooked or not?  check with a thermometer. Check the temperature. And they’re especially necessary when you suspect something’s going wrong, like a noisy car engine, or a child with a fever.

But they have a limitation.  They can tell you what’s happening.  But they can’t change anything.

flames-1099698_1920I remember being in a car with some friends on a baking hot day, driving round the North Circular (if you don’t know North London, the North Circular is basically the fifth circle of Hell, but with traffic). The car was old and frequently overheating as we crawled through the jammed cars, so every couple of miles we had to stop, turn the engine off, and do whatever car people do to cool the thing down. The job of the person in the front passenger seat was to keep an eye on the temperature gauge and whenever it got too far into red, shout, “Stop NOW.’

Enter the thermostat.

Thermostats are much more useful.  They can recognise a chilly evening and turn the central heating on, or regulate a car full of excited children on a hot summer’s afternoon.

Thermostats change the temperature.

So, which are you, in your church?

celsius-16047_1920When you lead a meeting, do you allow the feel of the people present to set the emotional temperature of the room (tired, bored, cranky), or do you take responsibility to change it to something more positive? When you stand up to speak to a church on a Sunday evening which is hot, stuffy and lethargic, do you share that feeling, or determine to grab attention as well as you can,  and hold it? Does a hostile conversation make you hostile as you advance towards it, or are you going to be open, friendly, and winning?

The church in Laodicea had a temperature problem (Rev. 3:14-22). Hot water is useful for washing and cleaning, and cold water is refreshing and bracing.

But who’d willingly drink tepid, lukewarm water? Who’d wash the dishes tepid, lukewarm water? Who’d take a bath in tepid, lukewarm water?

Yuk. And if that sounds trivial, remember what was at stake.  This was a church that made Jesus want to throw up (v.16).

A thermometer would have told the Laodiceans they were lukewarm.  A thermostat gets to change them. A pastor is to be a thermostat, not a thermometer.

Change the temperature.

Pastors should be thermostats, not thermometers.


By temperament, are you more of a thermostat or a thermometer?

What’s your spiritual temperature right now?

What’s the most effective way you know of raising the spiritual temperature in a room?

When do you next intend to set, rather than reflect, the temperature?

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