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April 6, 2020

Addressing Spiritual Lethargy: A Biblical Approach

A.  Biblical Approach to Spiritual Lethargy

The Bible instructs pastors on how to address spiritual lethargy when it overcomes those under their spiritual care.  All churches have at least a few members who are dying spiritually and also some who need to be roused out of their slumber.  One of the pastor’s responsibilities is to wake up the sleeping and exhort them to help restore those who are dying.  By the grace of God, a living remnant can restore a dying church.

  1. The Church in Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7)

The Ephesian Christians were active workers who persevered and remained morally upright.  They were theologically orthodox and discerning in doctrinal matters.  Despite these commendable qualities, the Ephesian church neglected something essential: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4).[1]  The Ephesians’ love for Christ had lost its depth and fervency.  Their once vibrant faith degenerated into a cold orthodoxy.  The Good Shepherd urged His sheep and contemporary pastors should urge their flocks to return to their first love.

How does a Christian with an indifferent heart return to Jesus?  The Son of God told the Ephesian church: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen” (Rev. 2:5a).  Every believer has the capacity to bring to mind what their relationship with Christ was like.  Pastors should attempt to stir the memory of the lethargic believer as a means to stir the heart.  The following questions may help:

  • Do you remember what it was like when you first fell in love with Christ?
  • Do you recall the spiritual exhilaration you experienced when you told others about your Savior?
  • Do you remember the wonderful sense of anticipation as you scheduled times to converse with Christ?

After challenging the Ephesian church to remember their former condition, Jesus commanded them to “repent” (Rev. 2:5b) of their present condition.  Speaking the truth in love, the pastor can challenge the lethargic person as follows: Change your mind about your sinful indifference toward Christ!  Determine now to break away from your lifeless religiosity!  Reverse the cooling trend by taking steps to rekindle your love for Christ!

In addition to remembering their former condition and repenting of their present condition, Jesus urged the Ephesian believers to resume their former conduct: “do the deeds you did at first” (Rev. 2:5c).  The deeds they did at first were prompted by love not obligation.  With a heart freshly revived, the deeds would now be done with renewed enthusiasm and a deeper sense of satisfaction.  In addition to addressing spiritual lethargy with a biblical approach, pastors can also address this spiritual malady with a theological approach. This will be the focus of next week’s blog.


[1] All Scripture quotations are from the Updated New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.

Rock LaGioia

Rock LaGioia

Rock LaGioia, Professor of Pastoral Studies, is passionate about building up the body of Christ by training the next generation of effective church leaders. Rock has many years of pastoral experience and enjoys preaching and teaching sound doctrine regularly at worship services, conferences, and seminars.


  • D.Min. 2007 Preaching, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois
  • Th.M. 1992 Practical Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois
  • M.Div. 1991 Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois
  • B.A. 1989 Pastoral Studies (Greek Emphasis), Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois
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