While having the wrong expectations from our church can stifle spiritual growth, having the right expectations will give us discernment that will lead us to a healthy church body where we can grow in our faith, maximizing all that God has for us. Here are some things we should expect from a church.
Things I should expect from my church:
1. The Bible
Front and center of any church should be the teaching of God’s Word. This is how we grow; how we distinguish between good and evil; how we are spiritually nourished; how we are equipped to battle Satan; what we base our lives upon, and what the church is to proclaim. Expect your church to teach the Word of God.
2. Unconditional love
Love is the primary characteristic of God working in a Christian’s life and in our church fellowships. This is how non-believers know we are followers of Christ, and this is what we will need in a church to nourish our lives and our relationship with Christ. We won’t always love perfectly, but that’s what a church should strive for, and what we should be willing to give. Expect your church to love you or at least strive to love you unconditionally.
3. Integrity in leadership
I should expect my leadership to exemplify Christ’s teaching morally. I should be able to trust that church leadership is following the Lord, making every effort to be holy and pleasing to the Lord, just as every follower of Christ. Leaders should not be looked at as perfect, but should want to exemplify Christ’s teachings, being careful not to misrepresent the gospel, especially in the areas of finances and sexual morality. Expect your church to value integrity in leadership.
I should expect my church to have Jesus front and center of all that goes on. Jesus should be the star of the church, the famous One, and the One the church magnifies. All should revolve around Jesus, as He is the head of the church. Expect your church to be centered on Jesus.
5. Gospel preached and lived out
I should expect my church to be a place where the message of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done to save mankind from sin is proclaimed and lived out. I should expect the gospel to be clear so that people will know the message of salvation, and so I can live by this message. I should expect my church to be clear about elements of the gospel like sin: How sin effects me. What God did about my sin. How to receive what God did about my sin, that only Jesus can take away my sin and why, about heaven and hell, grace, mercy, forgiveness and resurrection. Expect your church to preach and live out the gospel.
6. Dependence on the Holy Spirit
I should expect my church to follow, not lead God. This means that my church should make it clear by teaching and demonstrating that it is not by human abilities and strength but by the Spirit working in and through the church. I should expect my church to not rely on human means to accomplish God’s work, but that God’s work would be accomplished by God’s Spirit. Expect your church to depend on the Holy Spirit.
7. Support of the needy
I should expect my church to be compassionate and to help support those within the body who are needy and those without where the Spirit leads and provides. The church should always have the great commission in mind to make disciples by preaching the gospel and teaching people to obey Christ’s teaching as we reach out to help those in need. Expect your church to support the needy.
8. Unity in the Spirit
I should expect the church to strive for unity within the church body, which means that I will have to do that as well. The unity we will experience is in the Spirit and is focused on glorifying Christ in our actions. This means that we will have to often yield to others, consider others as more important than ourselves and to put others ahead of ourselves, so that Christ is glorified. This may mean that I will have to put my personal desires and wants behind the greater good of God’s glory. In other words, unity is more important than getting what we want. Expect your church to strive for unity.
9. Opportunities to serve
Considering that every Christian has a spiritual gift, and that gift is to be primarily used within the body of Christ, I should expect my church to give me opportunities and even encourage the use of my gift. I shouldn’t expect to be placed in certain positions or offices within the church right away or at my choosing, but I should expect to be able to serve in the church and let my gifts and calling come to the surface as I do. Expect your church to give you opportunities to serve.
10. Spiritual growth
I should expect to grow spiritually in my church with my participation. With healthy doctrine, teaching of the Word, opportunities to serve, using my spiritual gifts, accountably, encouragement, support, unconditional love and prayer, I will find that my church is the best instrument for my spiritual growth. Part of our growth is following the two prescribed “sacraments,” which are baptism and communion. These sacraments are outward signs of inward grace. Expect your church to help you grow spiritually.
11. Spiritual Attacks
Jesus said to His disciples that if they hated Him, they would hate them too. I should expect that a church that is following Jesus will encounter often and repeated attacks from Satan on the work of God. We aren’t to think it strange that we have these attacks but to think they are normal. The attacks are directly to stop the work of God. The most effective churches are the most spiritually attacked churches. Expect your church to be attacked spiritually.
I should expect prayer to be a major focus and emphasis in my church. Jesus said that His house should be a house of prayer. I should expect there to be opportunities to pray corporately with the whole church, individually with others in the church, and with pastors and elders at the church. I should expect that my church knows the power of prayer and the gift of prayer, and that all that is done in the church is bathed in prayer. This means that I too should be praying with the body, with others and in my personal life. Expect your church to be a church of prayer.
13. Spiritual family
I should expect my church to be close like a spiritual family. I shouldn’t see my church as something I attend, but something I am. A church family should be a place that all are welcome to join, where there is mutual love for Jesus and for each other, where I can be connected with others, where I can be open and honest with others, where I can feel safe, valued, built up and where I can experience close fellowship. Expect your church to be a spiritual family.
14. Equipping for ministry
I should expect that involvement in my church would help me be better at serving the Lord and serving others. I should be more loving, more passionate about God, more understanding of His Word, more intimate in my relationship with Him, more grounded in His truth and a better instrument for God to use. If this is not happening in my church, then either you are in the wrong church or you are not participating in what the church is doing as part of the body of Christ. Expect your church to equip you for ministry.
15. Church Discipline
On occasion, I should expect my church to have to deal with those in the church who are causing division, or who are living in sin and won’t repent. These are those who are serving in the church and not mere attendants or guests of the church. Expect your church to exercise church discipline when necessary.