Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 15th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Honest Church Expectations

Great Expectations (1999 film)

Great Expectations (1999 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is in the same mold of an ongoing discussion of why people leave congregations.

Some studies (studies… because we can make them say what we want) have shown that people want Churches to be honest. They want to know what “welcome” means. Guess what…

Churches aren’t always welcoming to everyone. Churches have expectations. Organizations have expectations. Units accepting new members have expectations. Then, those same members have expectations as well. Mainly, honesty.

In the end, seekers and searchers simply want the church down the street to be honest. No, we will not accept you if you choose to remain gay. No, we will not accept you if you choose to remain a wife-beater. No, we will not accept you if you choose to remain conservative, orthodox, liberal, a democrat, pro-life, pro-choice, emergent, etc… Yes, we have expectations that you will grow as spiritual beings; yes, we have expectations that you will “faithfully participate in its (i.e., the local congregation) ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness.” Even “progressive” churches have expectations of their members.

If you have no expectations, then this is actually an expectation. “We expect you to not expect anything from us and to remember we won’t expect anything from you.”

This is not a bad thing.

And, on the other hand, many people actually want the Church to be “the Church” (in other words, Church-y, however they define it).

Sam has a good point,

Because some churches are listening to this sort of cultural critique, it’s gotten ridiculous. Since some churches actually believe that they should not be churchy, they try to hide their spiritual donuts, if you know what I mean. Participants can attend, be fairly comfortable and entertained, without being confronted with too many spiritual matters. Then, right at the end, a little “Jesus” is slipped in.

If you are looking for a church, congregation, or small group — don’t you want it to be honest with you and not change to attract you? Are you looking for a church or an extension of yourself?

By the way, at no point should the expectation from the congregant to the congregation be that it (i.e., the denomination) does not change. Change is not dishonest. Hiding or refusing to be something you are is dishonest. 

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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