The Church has always had two types of Christians and they might as well be good to each other. On the one hand, we have the hot ’n readys, the Spirit-fired chasers of Jesus who are ready to turn their lives and their village upside down.
These are the apostles, the St. Francises, the George Blaurocks, the John Wesleys and the Shane Claibournes. Most revivals, revolutions, or reforms have come from these people. Their sins tend to be impatience, spiritual arrogance, emotionalism, and heresy.
On the other hand, we have the slow ’n steadys. These are disciples too, but they mostly want to live decent lives and then go to church on Sunday. They have their careers, families, and routines that they pray are pleasing to God, but have little interest in selling everything and giving to the poor. They are more interested in the long-term stability of the Church than in electrifying the town tonight.
They do not make rash promises about what they will conquer for Jesus, but they do show up. Because of these people the Church has lasted 2,000 years and is still inching forward. The sins of the slow ’n steady tend to be compromise, lethargy, and “Nicodemism,” which is avoiding persecution by blending in.
Different churches have leaned one way or the other. In the Early Church the apostles left everything to ply the seas and put the boots to the devil. But not many other people did. Most heard the Message, were baptized, and then went home to do the milking. Jesus honoured them both.
The Medieval Church had “the religious” who were the monks and nuns, and “the secular” who were the common lay people. Anabaptism began in Switzerland when some hot ’n readys got fed up with Zwingli’s slow, incremental reform. Anabaptists tried to be a church of only hot ’n readys, but eventually you ended up with Mennonites.
Eighteenth century Evangelicalism and 20th century Pentecostalism tried the same. All of these resulted in genuine renewal of the Church, but in no case a Church of only Apostle Peters.
These two groups have their unique ways of afflicting each other. The hot ’n readys harangue the “luke-warm” who do not “really” believe, hoping to set them on fire. They are often willing to split the Church to make their point. The slow ’n steadys will simply institutionalize the “freaks” out the church door, consigning them to the monastery or a parachurch organization. The slow ’n steadys generally hold the power and money of the Church, while the hot ’n readys claim the moral high ground.
The Church needs both the fire of sold-out passion and the steady hand of people whose faith is submerged in daily routines. We should stop trying to convert each other. Churches can provide places within the congregation for people called to live extreme faith. Perhaps we need monastic-type communities within the congregation with people committed in an extraordinary way to prayer or service. They should not need to leave or split the Church to live super-charged lives.
We also need to stop implying that all slow ’n steadys are compromised slackers. It’s okay that some people don’t want to talk about their faith all the time, or attend all-night prayer meetings, or move to Calcutta to live on love. There are steady disciples and there are radical disciples. It’s all good.
For more, read Ivan J. Kaufman’s book Follow Me: A History of Christian Intentionality (Cascade, 2009).
- Layton Friesen