Fighting the “Gimme” Expectation
Have you ever been to a Christian concert or convention and been amazed at how strong the presence of God is there? You can literally feel the Spirit of God in those places – it’s so refreshing! I know many people who wait all year so that they can relive that heightened feeling of being in intimate contact with God and the Body.
Yet, I hear so many of those same people and other congregants, who after talking about an amazing concert or convention – take a deep breath and let it out, their face drops as they begin to talk about their local church. I wish it was like this at church. Why can’t church be like that? It seems like God just doesn’t move in the local church like he does at concerts and conventions. Which begs the question: why?!?!
While this is a complex question with multiple pieces in the answer, I also have to admit that there is something I consistently see and hear as I talk to believers about their experiences in both settings: attitude.
Think for a moment about the mindset that someone has before they go to a Christian event. They are usually excited with joyful anticipation, have made it a priority and I can even go as far as to say – they expect something to happen! Folks tend to go to these events expecting to see God move. They go to these events to be part of the community. They go to these events to be part of the worship experience – hands lifted, eyes closed, heart and mind open to receive, ready to have our lives changed. We go to these events, many times knowing that they won’t know anyone there; and that is something powerful.
Since there is no one there that we know, there is no expectation that other people will interact with us. It’s just me and God! And there enlies a big difference and if I may be so bold, a big problem!
Think about the other scenario, on Sundays, in our local churches: low anticipation, little excitement, looked at many times as an inconvenience rather than a priority and worst of all – we don’t expect much to happen! We know the routine already – greeting, music, announcements, sermon, is there an altar call this time or not? The altar call is the wild card! Wow – what a wild card! What I expect is to see the same people, stare at the back of the same heads, hear the same speaker, maybe hear one of your favorite pop Christian songs and if there is an altar call – I’m not going up there to pray for anyone – but to be prayed for!
Gimme, gimme, gimme!
Who knows me here?
Who can pray for me?
What songs did they pick for me?
What message did the pastor write for me? (Or worse off – he wrote it for someone else!)
Sundays in the American Church have become spiritual pre-school. When we set ourselves up as number one on Sundays (or any day), we have made ourselves the priority over God (Exodus 20:3). We have made ourselves the objects of affection, not Jesus! We have made it about our comfort and not the Holy Spirit’s comforting through us!
A “gimme” attitude is the hallmark of spiritual immaturity. When we are newborns, we absolutely depend on mom and dad to do everything for us: food, water, shelter, changing our diapers, information about the world around us and comfort. The problem becomes when we never leave that stage of life! Imagine a physical healthy adult in diapers who depends on everyone around them for everything. Truthfully, I don’t have to imagine it – I can look around me and see spiritual infants all around me! It’s like toddlers dressed up as adults for Halloween. The voices and mannerisms are adult-like, but the words and actions betray their maturity.
Will we continue demanding to be the center of attention? Will we continue to compete with Jesus for importance? Will I have the boldness to be like Josiah and tear down and grind into a pulp the different idols I’ve set up in my life?
Here are four things that would revolutionize the Sunday Worship Service:
1) Make daily time for prayer (I don’t mean bring a list of wants before God)
2) Make daily time to reflect on how you handled the day (5 minutes is enough)
3) Create opportunities to serve someone ever day (commit to one act of service every day)
4) Expect God to move in your life this Sunday (be surprised if He doesn’t)
These simple disciplines remove the focus off of self and put it back where it belongs – on Jesus! These practices and exercises move us from spiritual immaturity to maturity. Living without these disciplines is paramount to getting out of the habit of showering, sleeping and eating! The whole Kingdom of God wins when we exercise these disciplines. You can do it! You got this!
Imagine Sunday morning in your local church community where hands are lifted and people are singing because they’re there to worship God despite their tough week; that they came ready to receive a word for them an no one else; that this Sunday was not the first time they’ve poured out their heart to God that week; that they came ready to give back in giving of resources and time (throughout the week)!
I think that’s a church where the sick are made whole, where the poor become rich and where lives are changed. That’s a healthy church that is fulfilling the calling of the church. That’s a church where people want to be.
When I was a child, I reasoned like a child. Now I’ve grown up and I reason like an adult and I’ve moved away from childish thinking and acting. 1 Corinthians 13:11