Have you ever ordered a meal at a fast food restaurant when you are in a hurry and upon arriving at your destination and opening the bag you find that you were given the wrong meal? There’s nothing like looking forward to a juicy, savory hamburger only to open the bag and find a garden salad! Whether we consciously think about it much or not, we have expectations for just about every aspect of our lives, and church is no exception.
Have it your way
If I were to ask you what your expectations are for next Sunday’s service, what would your answer be? I imagine some would say, “I expect to hear good preaching”. Others may say, “I expect an uplifting time of encouragement”. Still others may say, “I expect service to start and end on time”. Or, “I expect it to be the way it’s always been.” If you were to take a few moments and consider it, you will find that you hold many more expectations for our church services than you ever realized. All of us do.
We all know the slogan, “Have it your way”. Have you ever thought about that on a deeper level? What does that really say about us? We all desire to have things the way we want them. On some level we believe that our wants are most important and are what will be good for us. Or, in the case of fast food, we don’t care so much about what’s good for us, we just want what we want! In truth though entering a church service, entering corporate worship, we shouldn’t be concerned so much about having it our way, but having it God’s way.
“I’ll take a #3 meal, to go…”
Here’s the thing though, church services aren’t prescribed in scripture. As Pastor Scott recently stated in a sermon, we don’t know what the melodies used to any song in scripture. In fact, if you investigate the history of the church, service styles are widely varying. Some were predominantly spoken, full of scripted recitations. Some went far beyond the modern acceptable time frame of an hour to an hour and a half. The only necessary elements we glean from scripture are singing/music, teaching/preaching of the scriptures, giving of tithes and offerings, partaking of communion, and fellowship of believers. Acts of service could also be included in that list.
We know that generally people thrive under order and consistency so while liturgy or service order may not change drastically, thought is always given to how to effectively accomplish the necessary elements of a Christ centered gathering. This is were the rub with the “have it your way” mentality comes into play. We see in scripture that God’s perspective is not our own (Isaiah 55:9). We can be out of alignment with God’s view of acceptable worship (idolatrous worship – Amos 5:18-24). Likewise, “going trough the motions” without heart engagement isn’t what the Father seeks either (John 4:23). The “have it your way” mentality makes it far to easy for us to feel like the church service must cater to our selfish expectations.
What would happen if we re-calibrated our expectations? What if we entered our weekend service not with selfish expectations, but with the expectation to encounter God? What if we expected to be in God’s presence? What if we expected to praise the Lord with thankfulness (regardless of style or even setting), to seek to bless Him, and then expected the Holy Spirit to minister to each individual? What if we expected to see, hear, and experience God’s goodness (Psalm 119:68, Psalm 107:1, James 1:17, Psalm 34:8)? What if we expected to be changed by God and his word, leaving service different than when we entered (1 Peter 1:13, Romans, 2:4, 2 Peter 1:3)?
If this concept is something you’ve never considered, I encourage you to think and pray about it. Let’s do a little expectation re-calibration and see how our Father works among his church!