Managing expectations is a critical part of life and relationships. On several occasions, when accepting a job with a company, the good ones were careful to lay the expectations for what constituted a good employee. In some companies, as I rose through the ranks, new expectations were laid out and I was expected to understand them and agree to them if I accepted the position. Heck, even when I joined the Masons many years ago, it was no picnic. First you needed to be sponsored by another Mason and then agree to the principles of the Masons and learn a tremendous amount of material, by memory.
I don’t recall any such expectations presented when I accepted Christ or joined a church. Basically, it was “yes” and you were in.
In Matthew 9:35-10:42, Jesus lays out a rather precise and definitive list of what the Twelve might expect as they were being sent into the harvest. This episode of managing expectations is often interpreted and translated to anyone who believes in Christ. However, I’m not certain that should be the case. Toward the close of chapter 9 it is obvious that there are many “disciples” present as the stage is set for understanding the needs of the people and the great harvest that either is or will be ready. Then, in a matter of fact manner, Matthew tells us that Jesus “called to him his twelve disciples” and began to prepare them as harvesters.
The expectations and realities were not laid before all disciples, only the twelve. The outline of what is and what will be were stipulated in no uncertain terms from the one sending the Twelve. I expect, had this all been presented to the full entourage of those following the Christ, there could be many that would see this as a deal breaker. After all, this man, the Messiah, was new to many and still surround with questions. So who would accept this kind of challenge except those selected and those totally and unabashedly committed. That does not me the lesser ones were inferior in their faith, it simply mean that those selected – the twelve – were being equipped and prepared for a ministry that would start a revolution of sorts. Not everyone is equipped to handle that, nor should they be.
I often wonder if today’s churches have too high of an expectation of their members. Expecting them to be of “the twelve caliber” when perhaps they should be more of the follower category. Not everyone is an apostle, a prophet, a preacher, or even a teacher for that matter. Many, and I suspect most, are on the periphery of faith. That does not mean they don’t have gifts or that they cannot be used in the ministry of Christ, it simply means that perhaps the expectations are not clear and they infer they should be more. Evangelism is a good example. It is not uncommon to hear people being bullied from the pulpit or even the classroom to witness to their family, their friends, their co-workers. When in reality, that might be more than can be expected. Consequently, many go around with sense of guilt for not doing so or a sense of shame from trying to force the issue and turning people away.
Managing expectations is important. It is even more important when it comes to our faith. Failing to do so could be a deal breaker for many.