Allow me to set some expectations for you. I realize that as you read that phrase, many of you immediately perk up because that’s not a phrase that you're extremely familiar with coming from a pastor. We’re familiar with expectations at work or at home or in school and obviously we realize that God has certain expectations for us in how we live our lives but having expectations set on us within the context of the church, and let alone by a pastor, well that just feels weird. What makes this whole thing even weirder is that I may not even be your pastor. You may have another pastor altogether or you may not even have a pastor. Regardless of where you find yourself falling on that spectrum, feel free to apply the following words to your life.
Understand first, that this is primarily weird because church leaders at large have bought into the consumerism mentality. If you want to be involved, great. If you don’t want to be involved, that’s fine too. You're the "consumer", the church is the "product" and your pastor is the "supplier". And the “supplier” is always on guard making sure that the “consumer” is happy and making sure that the “consumer” doesn’t get upset and making sure that the “consumer” gets what they want or else the “consumer” might go to another “supplier”.
Listen, As a pastor, I get that you have expectations:
Whether you’ve thought about it or not, you come into your church on a weekly basis with expectations. But for the majority of you, that's where it stops. What you don't realize is that your pastor has expectations of you as well.
Below are my expectations, if I'm your pastor: now you know! If I'm not your pastor, chances are these same expectations apply for your pastor.
One of my expectations is that you would learn to develop community for yourself. The Bible is chalked full of Scriptures that deal with the idea of community and Biblical community or God honoring community.
Psalm 133:1 says... "How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!"
The 133rd Psalm is actually a “Psalm of Ascent” and all of the Psalms were written to be sung and “Psalms of Ascent” were sung as the people were making their way to Jerusalem. As you would make your way to Jerusalem, regardless of which direction you were coming from, you would always ascend to Jerusalem because of where is was positioned geographically and so you can imagine that as this two or three day journey was coming to a close, it was the last day that was the most difficult because of the climb. But it was on this last and most difficult day that this song was sung, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” They’re referring to a Biblical, God honoring connection between brothers and sisters in Christ who are on the same journey, and although it’s tough road to haul, it’s good when when we’re together.
Check out Acts 2:42-47.
If that’s not an environment that sounds appealing, I don’t know what does. I mean talk about true community. It sounds borderline cultish for us to talk like that today but I think what they were driving at here is the idea of, “Priority within Community”. The priority was clearly the teaching and understanding of God’s Word, the priority was obviously the worship of God but those two things were done within the context of tremendous community. And as a result, “...each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”
I want you to understand that your pastor can’t create that for you. They can’t ensure that you will without a doubt experience authentic relationships within the context of the church setting. Your pastor can provide opportunities all day long but they will amount to nothing if you don't take advantage of them. Stop making excuses for not having community and develop your own community within the church. Join a group, get plugged it to an area of service, do something besides complaining about your lack of community and connectedness.
One of my expectations is that you would learn or continue to learn how to better feed yourself spiritually. I think that often we confuse the ideas of “resource” and “responsibility”. I love that the church gets to be a “resource” for your spiritual growth. We get to offer classes and teaching series and small groups that have the potential to be very relevant to where you are in your faith journey. Here's the problem, somewhere along the line the idea of the church being a “resource” began to change into the church being “responsible” for people’s spiritual development. I want to be clear and say that “we” the church are not responsible for your spiritual development.
The Scripture talks all about the body of Christ supporting each other, warning each other, holding each other accountable and spurring one another on in the faith.
Check out what Hebrews 3:13 and Hebrews 10:25 say.
If you have relinquished the responsibility of your spiritual development to the church alone, then you are likely not growing spiritually. How's your personal time in the Word? How's your prayer life? Who's your accountability partner? Take back the responsibility for your spiritual development and the spiritual development of you family.
My last expectation is that you would begin to understand that the church isn't really about making you happy. I want you to understand that the purpose of the church isn’t just to continue to meet as a community of believers. The church isn't a country club, it's a hospital for hurting people. Things may not always be just like you want them to be. Someone may sit in "your" seat. The music may sound different than you prefer. The preaching may not be about the topic that you'd like to hear.
You see the world is full of people that are hurting and lonely and searching, and what happens in your church and in the context of your church community can be life altering. Author Gary Burge says “When God‘s love feels distant or non-existent, the body of Christ’s love is real and tangible….” That’s what the mission and purpose of the church is all about - reaching lost people.
Will you commit to creating & engaging in community for yourself?
Will you commit to being responsible for spiritually feeding yourself?
Will you commit to the mission and purpose of your church?