Monday, May 6, 2013

Distractions and Unrealistic Expectations

I talked yesterday from Acts 6:1-7 about the subtle attack of distraction that could have sidetracked the early church.  It is ever-so easy for churches and ministries to become distracted with seemingly good things and miss the main things.

The consumer-oriented culture of America has created sub-cultures in the church that are often consumer-oriented.  We easily become obsessed with "me," which shows itself in a myriad of ways.  Churches can become distracted due to unrealistic expectations of people.

Perhaps the biggest surprise my wife and I have experienced in our 15 years of pastoral ministry is how easily Christians in our culture get their feelings hurt - and stay hurt.  In our me-driven society, even Christians will stay stuck in "they didn't appreciate me," "they hurt my feelings," "they neglected me," or, as Kent Hughes writes, they can even get sidetracked in imagined offenses (ones that in reality did not happen but they feel or perceive that they did).

One of the built-in disciplines of being a pastor is that you have to stay spiritual (or just choose to live in the flesh).  A spiritual pastor knows that he can't "do church" or "do ministry" in his own strength without the Lord.  One of the disciplines that it creates is the reality that you have to keep your heart clean and the chips off our your shoulders on a weekly basis.  I can't expect the Spirit of the Lord to anoint my preaching if I have sin in my heart towards people in my church fellowship (unforgiveness, bitterness, etc.). 

Likewise, if I have unrealistic expectations of other people (she should have spoken to me, he should have checked on me, they should have attended that special event), I have to regularly give those to the Lord.  I just can't go into a Sunday with habitual sins hanging around my neck and shoulder.

I remember a man in one church I served who taught a discipleship class once a quarter.  He said that about a  week prior to teaching it, he started being very aware of whether or not he was walking with the Lord and keeping his life free from things that displease God.  He knew that God would not work through him mightily during the discipleship class if he were walking in the flesh beforehand.

I think that is a wise practice for every believer to do on a weekly basis.  Keep your sin list very short.  Check your attitudes daily.  Lay your expectations of other people before the Lord regularly.  Who knows - while you are disappointed in something they did or did not do, they may be disappointed at one of your flaws as well!

We all need a good dose of "getting over our self" and learning to bear with one another.

While expressing love, grace, and mercy to those who are hurting, a wise church, like the church in Acts 6:1-7, will not become distracted from their primary tasks every time someone has their feelings hurt or feels neglected.

One of the qualities that made The Builder Generation great (the WWII generation) was the fact that they understood that their individual worth came from making a positive contribution to something bigger than themselves.  They were not obsessed with pleasing self as much as they were driven to be dutiful to things greater than themselves.  Sadly, since that generation, our society has become more and more obsessed with pleasing self and creating a world that thinks that the institution (family, church, government) exists to make them happy - not that they exist to serve the other.

When a church focuses on making people feel good and putting bandages on people’s hurt feelings, it becomes easily distracted from her great work of making disciples and being Christ’s witnesses.  A distracted church will become a weak church. 

Mature Christians learn to get over their hurt feelings, to overlook offenses, and to get on with God’s program!  It is a mark of immaturity to wallow in self-pity.  It is a mark of maturity to clothe oneself with Christ, forgive your brother, and let go of your past disappointments.  If you don’t, you will distract not only yourself and your family but perhaps the whole ministry.

Unrealistic expectations can distract your ministry!  Guard against getting off course just because someone had their feelings hurt or felt neglected.

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