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What Do You Expect? (From Church)

Read through a few adventures of Jesus and his disciples and soon you will notice a recurring theme -- Jesus prodding his followers to do more: walk by faith, fear not, only believe. Jesus had high expectations for his followers. Educational theory reveals that a teacher's expectations of students is a huge motivational factor that contributes to scholastic achievement, for good or ill. Put the acronym TESA in your search engine, and you will find tons of information that draws direct correlations between teacher expectation and student achievement. Clearly, both Jesus and educational theorists understand that creating a culture of high expectation provides positive incentive to achieve. With these facts in mind, what does your local church expect?

Influence
In his book Your Church Can Thrive, Harold Percy asks this critical question: "What do we want to see happen as a result of [people] coming within the sphere of influence of our ministry?" In short, what do you expect -- from the ministry of the church, from the pastor, and from the members? What process do you have in place to bring about people's spiritual transformation and development as disciples of Jesus Christ?

Percy suggests that churches compile a top-ten list of topics for discipleship. In his list, he includes such topics as: the good news (What does that mean in clear, practical terms that we can apply to our personal lives?), the purpose of church, how to read the Bible, learning how to pray, and other similar topics. What can people expect to learn and experience in your local church?

Spiritual Legacy
I frequently speak about spiritual or ethical wills to underscore Jesus' imperative in the Great Commission to make disciples and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded -- in short, leave a spiritual legacy. While a regular will focuses on how material assets will be distributed to heirs, a spiritual will speaks about spiritual assets that a person wants to pass on to heirs.

Think of the spiritual legacy that Jesus left his disciples: prayer, faith instruction, care for the marginalized, a clear understanding of the kingdom or reign of God. I urge pastors (particularly those in an episcopal system in which they are appointed a year at a time) to write a spiritual will at the beginning of the appointment year. What spiritual legacy will you leave your congregation in a year's time?

Does Your Church Have a Prayer?
In a survey called "The Place of Prayer in United Methodism," several telling statistics scream from the page. While 100 percent of the churches surveyed said prayer was "extremely important" or "very important," only sixteen percent of those same churches reported having a process in place to teach people how to pray. Only eight percent of the churches employed prayer as an essential part of decision making. And fewer than ten percent of the churches report that they teach children how to pray; it is assumed that children learn to pray at home. What spiritual legacy does your church expect to pass on to its members?

Everything Happens "So That…"
In the book, Bearing Fruit, authors Lovett Weems Jr. and Tom Berlin suggest that every activity or ministry in the local church use a simple sentence format to determine the primary purpose of an activity or ministry. Here's the sentence: "I will do ________, so that ________ will happen." The purpose of the "so that" statement is to keep everyone focused on the end, not just the means. If the goal is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, the pastor and congregation would do well to use "so-that" statements. "We design worship, so that________. We offer these activities, so that ______. We focus our time and finances on this, so that ________." What is the ultimate purpose of the activities and ministries you offer?

Jesus has high expectations for his followers. What expectations does your church have for your members?

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Kwasi Kena, the former Director of Evangelism at Discipleship Ministries, is now an Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry at the Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, Indiana.