It’s Time To Let Go: Of The Expectations Of Others

Note: longer than a Fresh Heart weekly devotional but aimed at my fellow ministers. A longer read, but tackling an issue that many of us face.

It’s Time To Let Go Of:



Are the expectations of your congregation overwhelming God’s simple call of your life and gifting?

Scriptural Background:

“So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, ‘It wouldn’t be right for us

to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God

to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men

from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense,

and we’ll assign them this task.’”

Just being aware of a need does not in itself constitute a calling to give your life in an attempt to meet that need. If the Apostle Paul’s analogy of the Body of Christ being compared to the human body is God-breathed, then there is a central truth that we must not overlook. God has purposefully assembled different components and giftings to make up his Church.

Not everyone weeps over the same things. We don’t all pound the table over the same issues. What is critical for one is optional for another. God not only calls us to specific things, but then equips us with strong motivations (See the list of seven motivational gifts in Romans twelve). We come out of that process with strong desires and corresponding capabilities.

The apostles in our passage above had received a call from God to teach and preach the message of the risen Lord to the multitude of new believers and others who were being attracted to that Gospel. When administrative duties threatened to take them away from their calling, they willingly gave that part of the ministry away.

Godly leaders are not afraid to give ministry away to qualified people.

If you understand the work of God’s Kingdom you soon realize that there is plenty of work to go around. And you also come to trust the Holy Spirit’s enablement… making sure that the right person is around to take on the right job.

Problem is, some of us are just too conscientious!

When my father began to pastor in the early 1940s, the ministry required ‘generalists:’ men who could do it all. Thus, even with a growing congregation of several hundred people on the North Side of Chicago, my dad wore many hats. He was the preacher of the Word. He would teach an adult Sunday School class during the 9:45 a.m. Christian Education hour. He orchestrated the youth service on Friday night. He published his own bulletin and personally ran it off in the basement on the church’s mimeograph machine. (I got to help with this project…slipping thick slices of cardboard between the newly printed sheets to absorb the excess ink.)

There were always home visits to conduct and sick people to visit in their homes or hospital rooms. And occasionally there was an issue needing counseling…occasionally! It’s difficult for some of us to remember a time when it didn’t take several staff members to handle the counseling sessions adequately.

It may look on paper like a fairly full schedule, but in reality, even pastoring a fairly large church in that era was a pretty relaxed and simple calling. There was ample time to spend in the Word, preparing spiritual meals for your congregation.

But this is not then!

The last six decades have added layer upon layer upon layer of peoples’ expectations as to what a minister should be and what he should do. The unfettered hours to pursue God and look expectantly into His Word have given way to a shuddering array of demands…strident voices calling for our time, energy and very lives. It’s one thing to lay down your life on behalf of your congregation…it’s another thing entirely to have it ripped from you by unfair and unrealistic expectations.

It’s time that we took back our appointment books. As Eugene Peterson contends in “The Contemplative Pastor” we desperately need to get to the calendar before anyone else does. It’s almost always in the quiet, very personal times with our Father, that not only help us recognize the ‘urgent, but not critical’ pressures on us, but leave us aware of the Holy Spirit’s agenda for our calling.

What happens when the concept of the ‘super-pastor’ (able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…more powerful than a locomotive…faster than a speeding bullet) meets reality (apt to walk into the side of buildings…energy depleted by Tuesday evening…slower than a speeding ticket)? Something has to give. And it’s very important that the something that has to give does so while you still have something to give. (Re-read that last sentence; it has truth imbedded in its complexity!)

No one gave more than Jesus gave. Yet there is an incredible statement by Jesus at the end of his ministry that speaks volumes to us about our preoccupation of being everything to everyone we meet. Jesus, in one of his last times to report in to the Father, stated;  “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” The work that you gave Me to do!

First of all, Jesus only had a three and a half years of  public ministry. And while it’s true that He most likely worked smarter than we typically do, the real secret of his successful closure of his ministry can be attributed to the fact that He did what the Father had asked him to do. Do we seriously do that? Do we start a day with a powerful conviction that our day has already been laid out for us by our Heavenly Father and it has an eternal ebb and flow to it that maximizes Kingdom results…if we cooperate?

I remember reading something that was supposed to make a minister laugh, or at least smile. It was a parody on what a congregation wanted from their pastor. He had to be tall and slender with a stocky build. His hair was to be brown and wavy on one side and black and straight on the other. He was to be seriously dedicated to his work but with a clever sense of humor. He was to have been young enough to be filled with youthful energy, yet celebrating at least 35 years in the ministry. He had to study 30 hours a week yet always have his door open for counseling times and random fellowship. He had to have a heavy burden for youth, yet give all his time to the mature saints.

It can’t be done.

Nor does God expect us to try. Many have expectations for you, but God knows every portion  of the harvest field. If we don’t learn what the ‘main thing’ is for us, we will be swallowed up in an impossible task, while denying others to move into those place and find their callings there.

Today, I must know the Father’s heart for my ministry. I must hear his voice in my ear saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” Although I’m not here to make people mad or even to disappoint them with my inability to meet their needs, I am here to fulfill God’s call on my life.

 It’s time to let go of the damaging expectations of others.

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