When I was a boy, grade card time came around all too quickly. I remember many times wanting to hide my school grade card so I wouldn’t have to face my parents (especially when my grades were not very good). My mother would always express concern but my Dad was a bit more emphatic. He would say something like, “You’re not applying yourself,” or “You are capable of doing much better.” I remember one time I replied, “Dad, I’m just stupid,” to which he immediately responded, “I don’t have any stupid children, and don’t ever say that again.”
It is obvious that my father expected much more of me than I did of myself.
My heavenly Father also has high expectations of me. Not because I am exceptional. His expectations are high because He created me, re-created me in Christ (created for good works), and empowered me with His indwelling, a spiritual gift, life experiences, passions, His Word and hundreds of brothers and sisters to encourage me. This is why He can rightfully expect more of me than I do of myself or more than others.
With this story in mind, I’ve noticed over the years two kinds of churches, when it comes to expectations. There are congregations that don’t expect much of their members and there are churches that have higher (than normal) expectations of their members. And, it shows. Low expectation churches aren’t growing and most members come and go at will and never seem to grow spiritually and the community doesn’t know about them. On the other hand, churches who are aware of the high expectations of Christ and have ‘high expectation’ elders are known in the community, they are growing both numerically and spiritually—it really shows. Simply put: brethren become what we expect of them. Sometimes we expect too little.
Now, I am NOT promoting a “performance” theology. However, I am promoting a Christ-like theology, an abundant living theology and a “faith working through love” theology. I am promoting discipleship. When we intentionally look at God’s Word wanting to do what He expects, church leaders will lead and empower members for service. Jesus expects us to be disciples and to produce fruit. He expects us to be light and salt. He expects us to be holy and righteous. And, we are enabled to be all of these. Even the Hebrew writer expected more of the brethren (6:9).
About twenty years ago, some brethren were discussing how new members should be told what was expected of them when they placed membership. These same folks were criticized. I understand there is always the possibility of abuse of anything good. However, many of us have taken this to the opposite extreme: we don’t expect much of the brethren or we don’t tell members what is expected of them. Many members of the church are left to figure out what the leaders expect of them. I suggest church leaders have the right to expect the same things of church members as did Jesus and those expectations need to be verbalized often.
Church leadership needs to raise the bar. It takes guts, it takes faith, it takes prayer and it takes a lot of hard work, but the payoff is huge: the brethren are blessed, the lost are reached and taught, children grow up being disciples, and people in our church and community are the recipients of the good things our ministries provide.
Is your congregation a “High” or “Low” expectation church? What are you presently doing to make it a congregation seeking to fulfill the Lord’s expectations?