Article by Sam Beh
What temperature should a church set its thermostat to?
Perhaps, it should be the temperature that the majority chooses, decided by congregational vote. But then, what about the minority? So perhaps, it should be the temperature chosen by the “weakest” member. After all, 1 Corinthians 8:9 tells us not to be a “stumbling block” to others. But then, what do we do if two different members say that they are “stumbled” by each other’s preferences? Perhaps then, the church should have different rooms with different temperatures to cater to different preferences. But, would it still be considered one church?
It seems like a frivolous question, but it actually raises more serious concerns. The thermostat often becomes an issue because the church has to make a decision amidst different member preferences. This means that not everyone will agree with the decision, or get what they prefer. So how should a church decide? As a church leader myself, let me first address church leaders.
As with any decision, church leaders must decide on thermostat issues in a way that builds up trust among our congregation, because a congregation’s response to any decision is never a response to that decision alone. Their response is based on years, perhaps decades of trust (or mistrust) cultivated between the church leaders and the congregation. That’s why every decision that leaders make must be covered with prayer, and made in a way that is faithful, loving, careful, humble, clearly communicated, and wisely carried out.
However, regardless of how faithful the leadership, a single temperature has to be chosen, and so not everyone will get the exact temperature they want. This means that, when faced with a thermostat issue, it’s not just the leaders who have to make a decision, but every church member too. To stay, or to leave. Stay in a church that has a temperature that is not quite set to my liking. Or leave for a church that has the temperature set exactly as I like it. There isn’t one right answer. After all, a church that is unbearably cold or unbearably warm may make it impossible for one to worship.
The point is not that there is one right temperature that all churches should set their thermostat to. But there is a right way to approach the question. Every thermostat issue is an opportunity for the church to show the world what gospel unity looks like. Gospel unity is about God’s diverse people uniting around the Gospel, worshipping together as one people. This necessarily means that there will be thermostat issues, and we will not always get exactly what we want. But how we respond to not getting what we want is, in many ways, the whole point. You see, thermostat issues are not just about the temperature of the church. They are also about the temperature of the church’s unity.
Churches will always face thermostat issues, and all the above-mentioned caveats about how leaders should make decisions should apply, and more. Members should feel comfortable voicing their concerns, and be able to have honest dialogue with their leaders. But sometimes, displaying gospel unity to the world could be as simple as choosing to taking off your jacket. Or putting one on.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily held by everyone at Christ City Church.