We, as individuals, have expectations about many things. We expect good service when we go to a restaurant. We expect to learn something when we go to a museum. We expect to hear platitudes when we hear politicians speak. We expect our children to behave in public. We expect more things that we could possibly list here.

We also have expectations when it comes to the church. Some of these are great expectations – we expect that worship will feel familiar. We expect to hear music we know. We expect a certain style of preaching that we have become accustomed to. We expect to receive communion on a regular basis.

And we have aspirational expectations – we expect God to show up. We expect that people will get on board with a vision. We expect everyone to be engaged in the life of ministry. We expect the church to deal with difficult issues.

And we have many unspoken expectations that aren’t necessarily bad, but we’ve never really explored them to see if they still make sense – we expect the pastor to do certain things (and only the pastor). We expect that someone else will answer the call when a need arises. We expect that people will meet the financial obligations of the church if we just say how bad things are. We expect that the young people will return. We expect people will come back after the pandemic and once we get rid of the online church thing. We expect that everyone else thinks that going back to the way it was at some point in the past is ideal.

How often do we actually examine these expectations? Are they good expectations? Based on what? Our preferences? What if reality doesn’t match with our preferences? Are we willing to pay the price for that mismatch?

What if instead of assuming that our expectations are “normal” we instead looked at the world around us, as it is now, and intentionally declared new expectations for what it means to be church? Can you imagine how powerful that would be? Can you imagine what would change?

I can. We’d all be a lot more honest with each other for one thing. We’d see what was best for the community – both the church community and the larger community. We’d learn how to deal with conflict, rather than avoid it or pretend it doesn’t exist. We’d have healthier churches and church cultures. We’d have people who would be more engaged in ministry. We’d have realistic and mission-oriented budgeting. We’d have pastors and staff who aren’t burning out. We’d have things in the church that would be allowed to die and end. We’d have congregants who are on fire for the ministry. We’d have deeper faith.

All that from looking at our expectations? Yes, I think so. Not perfection by any means, but better. Sometimes we have been doing things for so long that we don’t even know why we do it, or why we believe that another way is wrong. Sometimes we just assume we are right because something works for us. But we lose sight that maybe a different way might be an improvement. We lose sight that others might experience the world far different from us.

What do we expect? What should we be expecting? What expectations would be most beneficial? What expectations is Jesus calling us to?


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