Addressing Spiritual Apathy in the Church (Part 2)

July 4, 2016

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Sam Hodges

BCC Staff: In the last post Sam Hodges identified ways in which the problem of spiritual apathy might be misunderstood. In this installment he describes the seriousness of the problem.

Why spiritual apathy is a serious issue

First, God commands us to be zealous. This means that we are to be eager to serve the Lord and energetic in the way we go about serving Him. So people need to understand that when it comes to the things of the Lord, one can’t explain away a lack of passion by claiming, “I’m just a laid-back person.” Granted, we need to be careful about having in our minds an acceptable level of zeal. Like any other trait, its expression grows and matures over time.

A second reason apathy is a serious issue is that Paul reminds believers that God not only gives us the power to do what is right, He also gives us the desire to carry out His agenda. Paul told believers at the church in Philippi to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12–13, emphasis added). This means that the person who is apathetic and claims to be a Christian has to explain why God has uniquely chosen not to produce in him the desire to do what God wants.

And even if someone argues that he doesn’t feel like it’s authentic to do what God asks without feeling motivated to do it, we want to help him understand that ultimately what should motivate obedience isn’t feelings but the fact that Christians have been united to Christ.

That leads us to the third reason apathy is a serious issue: since we have been united to Christ, we share in, or participate in, all aspects of His life, death, and resurrection. Apathy on the part of the Christian toward the things of God denies and resists the implications of this union. The idea of union with Christ undergirds Paul’s argument in Romans 6 as to why Christians can no longer live in sin. And that has application for apathetic Christians. Since we are united to Christ in His resurrection, like Christ, Christians live a new life—and for us that means a life characterized by new priorities—namely, being instruments of righteousness. As such, we offer ourselves to God to be at His disposal to serve His purposes (Rom. 6:13). This is why Christ saved us—so that we would be eager to do good (Titus 2:14).

This is why you may need to consider warning the apathetic person that he may not be a Christian. Apathy is disobedience. God’s Word tells us that He gives us a desire to do His will, and that since we are united to Christ, we must put off old patterns of sinful behavior and offer ourselves to God for His purposes. So a person can’t simultaneously embrace apathy and affirm what God says in His Word about the way believers respond to His instruction. God has done too much in the life of the believer to produce zeal. Zeal may not look the same in each person. But at some level, spiritual passion should be visible in a person’s life.


Apathetic people may benefit greatly from Bible study partners or joining a Bible study group. And one topic that may help them put off apathy is a study of the idea of union with Christ. The next time you consider how to help spiritually apathetic people, remember the list of common mistakes mentioned in my previous post and strive to help them understand the implications of their salvation for their attitude toward the things of God.

Note: This article first appeared in

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How have you sought to impress upon counselees that spiritual apathy is a serious matter? What was the response?