Part 9 in a 12-part series. For the series intro and index, click here.
So what are your expectations of those you serve?
Let me recommend a few realistic expectations.
First, I think you should be amazed that those who heard you preach last Sunday come back—and even at times bring guests. No one should be more amazed than the ordinary pastor when people return. Why should I be amazed? Because I preached last Sunday! “If some men were sentenced to hear their own sermons,” Spurgeon said, “it would be a righteous judgment upon them, and they would soon cry out with Cain, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear.’”* Keep that in mind when you think about your church. We should be grateful they come back.
Second, we should be grateful they stay awake while we are preaching! Here’s something I find great encouragement in: Jonathan Edwards had to address people who were falling asleep in his church. J.I. Packer describes it this way:
In a sermon weightily titled “When the Spirit of God Has Been Remarkably Poured out on a People, a Thorough Reformation of Those Things That Were Before Amiss Amongst Them Ought to Be the Effect of It,” Edwards speaks against sleeping in church and urges that “persons would avoid laying down their bodies in their seats in the midst of public worship."**
I cannot imagine the sight. Edwards looks out during public worship and there is nothing subtle about it: people are stretched out. Edwards did not deserve this. I deserved Northampton; Edwards deserved Covenant Life Church. I can find more than sufficient reason for gratitude in the fact that those in my church—most of them, anyway—stay awake while I am preaching.
If I have realistic expectations of my church, it will be easy for me to be patient even when they (like me) grow slowly.
The “Ordinary Pastors” blog series is adapted from C.J.’s unpublished chapter by the same title and is scheduled to appear in the Together for the Gospel compilation book, The Unadjusted Gospel (Crossway, 2012). C.J. has contributed chapters in two other similar compilation titles: Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology (Crossway, 2009) and Preaching the Cross (Crossway, 2007).
* C.H. Spurgeon, “The Necessity of Ministerial Progress,” in Lectures to My Students, vol. 2, Lectures, Second Series (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1881; Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1990), 28.
** J.I. Packer, “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion: A Study in the Mind of Jonathan Edwards,” in A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 84n9.