What We Expect From Church

Jesus didn’t much care.
When we read the gospels, we find that Jesus was not even slightly interested in the personal preferences nor comfort of his disciples. Frequently his disciples tried to convince him to tone it down; modifying his call to deny self and follow toward a more palatable approach. After all, he would scare away potential members with his radical call to a sevant-shaped lifestyle. “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” said the bewildered disciples (John 6). But Jesus doesn’t back off, instead cranking it up. “Does this offend you?” Jesus says; followed by launching into an ever greater call to lifestyle change.

So how did we move from Jesus’ call to disciple-life to what we commonly expect from church? Most people don’t expect to be challenged much at church. We rather church pat us on the back and say we are doing fine; regardless of how much our lives reflect the teachings of Jesus. Politeness becomes our guiding principal, rather than honest engagement with the gospel. We avoid challenging members regarding loyalty to political party over Christ, relationships to money, or even insignificant items like worship times. Church leaders know this, so some work toward keeping as many people happy as much of the time as possible. The outcome is spiritual anemia…a watered-down, patronizing, tepid, lowest common denominator kind of religion. When the salt loses its saltiness, throw it out. Too many people are doing just that, joining the Dones.

So, Jesus, where do we go from here? If we decide to become a more robust church, we might lose some members. Again, Jesus didn’t much care. “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (Gospel of John). It appears as if Jesus preferred a few disciples to multitudes of members. To become more invigorated, robust churches, many of us would have to change our expectations of church. We would have to accept some truths about church and about what this life of discipleship might include.

Robust churches:
• Accept that our personal lifestyles will be challenged and disrupted as a result of engaging the Way of Jesus
• Accept that we will regularly be challenged when we gather for worship, Bible studies, small groups, and other church events
• Accept that the kingdom of God is a contrast society in comparison to our culture’s recommended way of life
• Accept that participating in a church will challenge our assumptions and values, influencing us to appear less conventional to our surrounding culture
• Accept that we are citizens of God’s kingdom, making us resident aliens in our own communities
• Accept there will be times when the values of God’s kingdom put us in conflict with our government and political parties
• Accept we will be called on to lay down our personal preferences and comforts often in order to live as servants, as did our Lord Jesus

Who then would sign on to this kind of life? Who wants to be part of this kind of invigorated, robust church?
Those who have tasted of the Lord and found that the Lord our God is good. When we experience the grace, love, and life which Jesus brings to our lives…then we will do anything to continue that kind of life. Jesus called this captivating way of life the pearl of great price and the treasure found in a field. When we experience Jesus Christ, laying aside personal preferences shrinks to the category of very small potatoes (insignificance).

Mark Tidsworth,
President, Pinnacle Leadership Associates