Today at Abundant Life Church, our Student Pastor, Donnie Culpepper, asked parents to release their expectations on their children so that God could unleash the potential of this next generation.
The statement about expectations really took hold of me because throughout this past month the message has been about saving our city. Pastor Hennigan challenged the church body to step out and take an active role in delivering God’s message. Based on independent studies, church bodies will dwindle away to almost nothing in the years to come, and 2050 marks a date that would see significantly less people in the Word of God.
I believe a key part to reaching out to people is an understanding of expectations.
I remember when George Lucas finally decided to release the three prequels to Star Wars. I found myself giddy with excitement. The original Star Wars was a staple of my youth, and the anticipation of reliving those moments was so palpable. I have to say I found the prequels a complete disappointment. Aside from the fact the films were bad–a point to be argued later–there wasn’t any possibility that the films would meet my expectations. Our imagination is limitless, our expectations subjective, and left to someone else’s interpretation it’s no wonder their are unhappy folks in the world.
Throughout my career I have played a role in setting people’s expectations. As an IT Engineer, I routinely had to bridge the gap between all the miraculous things a sales person would say about a particular piece of technology and what it would actually do. Today, as an instructor, students come to my classes with a variety of needs, and expectations for what the class will do for them.
Pastor Hennigan is no different. He has to handle the wants, needs & expectations of an entire church body–some that have been around 40+ years. Not only is he trying to please existing members, but entice new members to join the church body. Isn’t that a crazy thought? In trying to lead us to God, and through God deliver us to Salvation, he has to stop to check the pulse of the church to make sure nobody’s feelings were hurt. It was months ago that Pastor Hennigan made the statement, “I’m over you.” and in that service he stated he’s doing the Lord’s work for us, in spite of us.
So how does this tie in to expectations? Well, I’m glad you asked because I probably would have strayed way WAY off point.
As Christians, we have to exceed the expectations of others by being unconventional. Now I’m not saying we have to be “Wild & Crazy Guys” ala Steve Martin, but we do have to dispel the stereotype placed on “conventional” Christians. The only way to understand the expectations of other people is by listening, and to truly listen to another person you have to set your own expectations aside.
I know as Christians we have His message that we want to trumpet to all corners of the world. However, as we stand on the corner shouting words of redemption to the masses that ignore us, perhaps they’re doing that because they believe we don’t care. You might laugh, but it’s the truth. When someone’s life is in shambles, and your only answer is “God loves you.” that’s not enough AT THAT MOMENT in the middle of their crisis. God is great, and God is good, but sometimes He needs us, His followers, to be a tangible solution for the feint of heart. Sometimes we are the tools of God’s Grace.
Which brings me to the Top 4 Ways Christians Can Unleash People’s Expectations:
1. Discover people’s expectations by actively engaging them.
2. Understand people’s expectations by actively listening to them.
3. Create meaningful expectations for people by actively working with them.
4. Exceed people’s expectations by actively supporting them.
Internally, we have to be careful our expectations don’t hinder what God has planned for us. When we weigh heavily on our expectations of ourselves and others, we create a fantasy in our own image not His. The things God has in store for us are so far beyond our expectations we can’t even fathom them. My good friend J. has a saying, “All you can do, is the best you can do.” If you put your expectations through faith in God, your best will always be good enough.