By now, you’ve probably heard of “silent withdrawal.” It’s not about quitting your job and then trying to keep quiet about it. It’s about being freewheeling in the job you currently have. Proponents see it as “seeking to draw firmer boundaries between work and personal life after two years of pandemic overtime.” In other words, no more burnout.
Critics, such as Arianna Huffington, write that quitting “isn’t just about quitting a job, it’s a step toward the end of life.” Or as Kevin O’Leary, co-star of ABC’s “Shark Tank” and chairman of O’Shares ETFs, said in a CNBC video essay, quietly quitting is a horrible approach to building a career: “You you have to go beyond because you want to. That’s how you succeed.”
If you define “quietly quitting” as saying “no” to extra work without extra pay, it’s hard to just refuse to do the job you were originally hired to do at the salary you agreed to do it for. But if that means coasting through life, then I agree with Huffington. And the idea of ”quietly quitting” started when people posted videos of themselves on Instagram and TikTok explaining how to slack off at work.
The whole debate (and there was nothing silent about the different points of view) made me think that it is not only individuals who can quietly quit smoking, but also churches . And here, there can be no debate about the merits of doing so. For a Church to quietly resign – to stop, to do the bare minimum, to refuse to engage in mission with every fiber of its being – would be unthinkable.
Yet, one cannot help but think that this is the norm. Churches are content with their size, content with their impact, content with the status quo. Pastors who post their messages and lead at the pace of the greatest ease. Helpers who are more concerned with meeting their needs than seeing someone far from God come to faith.
There is simply no intensity.
The word intense is interesting. As for the films, they are rated R for intense violence; when it comes to sports, we talk about intense rivalries; when it comes to business, we talk about intense competition; when it comes to war, we talk about intense combat. When we speak of something intense, we mean that it exists to a high degree.
The word itself is constructed from the word intention, as when we intend to do something; aim for something, aim for something. So the idea is that if you intend to do something – achieve something, aim for something, strive for something – then intensity is the degree to which you actually do it.
And Jesus has no stomach for churches that aren’t intense.
The last of the seven letters to the seven churches of Revelation was sent to Laodicea. It was a wealthy city that was known for producing the best clothes in the world as well as for its medical school, which had invented an ointment that helped clear up many vision-related issues.
But despite everything they had, they were also known for one thing they didn’t have: their own water supply. It was to come to them through a series of viaducts and pipelines for at least six miles, and then it came from a series of hot springs. By the time it reached them, it was often still lukewarm, and unless processed, it was disgusting to drink. So disgusting it would make you vomit to drink it. If it had come hot it could have been useful for bathing, and if it had come cold it could have been used for drinking.
But lukewarm was useless.
This gives context to the following words of Jesus: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were either! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth….So be diligent and turn away from your indifference” (Revelation 3:15-16, 19, NLT).
Jesus’ accusation is: “You are neither hot nor cold. You’re not on fire but you’re not dead. You are not a passionate world-changing believer or a devout atheist. You’re just kind of in the middle – safe, warm, comfortable.
And that made Jesus want to vomit.
Yes, to vomit is what the word “to spit” literally means in the original Greek language. And the people who heard that knew exactly what Jesus meant. It was the expression used between them about their water supply. Jesus said, “This is how you make me feel when I look at you, when I drink you.”
So, as we continue our current debate on whether “quietly quitting smoking” is burnout or just slacking off, let’s agree that when it comes to the mission of the Church,
…the lukewarm nature of quitting quietly is not an option.
James Emery White
Kathryn Dill and Angela Yang, “The Backlash Against Silent Abandonment Is Growing Strong”, The Wall Street JournalAugust 25, 2022, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. To take advantage of a free Church & Culture blog subscription, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture podcast. . Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.