I’m often amazed at how easily we, myself included, want to throw more rules at a situation in order to improve it. In my spiritual beliefs and line of work, we tend to shy away from the word “rules” and substitute a slightly less aggressive word we call “expectations” – as if it’s different.
Whichever way you look at it, I’m left with one burning question: “Since when has anyone seen long term improvement from more “expectations”? Sure people can assume a role for a while, but without a greater desire developed, no performance lasts.
One excellent example I’ve experienced is during my time in charge of Men’s Ministry with a local collegiate ministry. As part of Men’s Ministry I began a ministry house immediately next to the university campus and packed it full of men. These men signed a contract in full knowledge of the commitments they were morally (and legally) binding themselves to.
However, we quickly found that many people involved had ideas of how things should happen, what should be focused on, and so on. Our immediate reaction was to try to incorporate more and more of these as many of them were good ideas and expectations. I quickly found this was a mistake.
More Expectations Equals More Disappointments
The catch is, you can’t force someone to want to meet an expectation. That’s something they have to want themselves.
An expectation can not be met if (1.) the person has no desire, or (2.) the person’s schedule or current life situation does not make them capable.
The problem then becomes that now this person is not meeting the expectation. It’s no longer, “Hey you wanna join me to do this?” or “Hey can I help you with something?” and it becomes “Jim-bob isn’t doing it as well as me, or at all, and so shame on him.”
As you see, more and more expectations simply become more and more excuse for disappointment. This is true in relationships, ministry, leadership, and certainly just Christianity in general.
It takes away the responsibility from you to be an example or a leader by (1.) setting expectations for yourself, (2.) meeting them, (3.) investing in and teaching others, and (4.) giving grace and encouragement when others just aren’t there – cause after all, the expectations are only yours.
This was a great learning experience for me as I had to sort through what was happening. We had lost track of the simplicity of the Biblical basics of character we had set in place (with a few cultural standards that had to in place), and we had begun adhering to our own additional, man-made philosophies.
What is sad is that these expectations are 100 times harder to undo than they are to put in place.
What Could Be Better?
I want to be clear: What I’m not saying is that we hold no expectations for people! I’m saying we don’t hold relative expectations. The expectations that we often place on others are ones that God does not even place on us. Yea, the creator of the universe who would have the right to do that.
Another despicably cowardly practice I also see people error towards is to say, “No judging”, “No charging”, “No holding people to commitments”, and this doesn’t benefit people either. People who quote Matt 7:1 as a standalone verse are the people who don’t do Matt 7:5. If you’re only motive for not challenging others is you want people to like you or not get upset, you’ll actually end up doing nothing for people.
Scripture is clear on the wisdom it takes to be a leader that does this well:
- You know and you do yourself; then you help others with their benefit in mind – not to alleviate your annoyance. (1 Cor 11:1)
- Occasionally, with discretion and concern, you do charge a person to hold to what he has knowingly committed to and claims to desire. As in a verbal, spiritual commitment or a written document he signed. There is nothing wrong with this. This is good for us and we all need this charge from time to time. (2 Thes 3:15; 1 Tim 1:5)
However the more important, and vastly more rare, is to show others how it’s done. (1 Pet 5:2-3; 1 Cor 11:1; Acts 20:18-24; 2 Thes 3:7) This is the harder work. This is exactly what Jesus and the apostles modeled for us.
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Paul, Phil 4:9
I’ve learned the hard way that often my frustration with others simply happens because I’m selfish, sinful, and lazy just like they are, in my own way. Let’s do the hard work.
Remember, we don’t live out of rules with God, we live out of a joy and satisfaction. That’s what we all need more of, and rules won’t cause others to get it.
Many people will doubt you. Many people will malign you. Many won’t understand what you’re doing, why you do things, or why you “think you’re better than others” or “know more”. You will be tempted to think more highly of yourself and less of others, but pray for grace and humility and keep giving what you’re receiving. This is being a leader for the Lord.
Let’s hear it: Do you see truth in this thinking? Would you say it a different or better way? Would you argue against it in some way? How have you failed and succeeded in this arena – tell some specifics. Let’s learn together.