The Pastor certainly wasn’t friendly or cheerful. Didn’t look me in the eye, or even notice me when I walked by – though I was the only person in the entire open lobby! It wasn’t what I expected from someone in leadership.
It was a Southern Baptist Church, but they turned the lights low, didn’t sing any hymns, and baptized people in Tshirts rather than robes. It wasn’t what I expected from that denomination.
Her spiked heels, brightly dyed hair and perfect makeup seemed over the top, and yet, she skillfully delivered Biblical truth with such love and passion that the room full of teen girls was captivated the entire hour. It wasn’t what I expected from someone so put-together as her.
The small church nestled in the heart of town seemed so conservative with their hymns, choir, and organ. Yet their old fashioned ways were set aside to allow a woman to teach Sunday School. It wasn’t what I expected to encounter there.
The teacher wore jeans and a Tshirt on the stage, knowing the program would be televised, and he even used questionable language that could be considered cursing, and yet the glory of God filled that church and seeped into my living room. His style of preaching, and God’s response, wasn’t what I expected.
Perhaps I should stop setting expectations based on appearance and opinion.
Can God only work through people who look or act ‘the part’?
- dress a certain way (jeans and Tshirts vs. suits and dresses and heels. )
- behave a certain way (always cheerful vs. serious personality)
- worship a certain way (singing all 4 verses of a hymn vs. drums and hand-raising)
- preach a certain way (charismatic and busy and loud vs. simple and calm)
How often we forget that He is a God who loves variety! He delights in our differences and accepts our shortcomings. Jesus died to set us free from the law because the rules don’t allow for grace and mercy.
We all have preferences. Opinions. Rules. The problem is, who gets to decide which way is the right way? Why do we get so hung up on getting what we want, seeing things done the way we like them to be done? Why do we think our opinion even matters?
Shouldn’t we be seeking God’s perspective in every situation, rather than our own personal preference?
Maybe churches and services don’t have to be picture-perfect. Maybe I need to loosen up my expectations a little bit on the length of the sermon, whether there are chairs or pews, whether that seat was really mine to claim, the proper temperature and airflow in the auditorium, and the way the pastors choose to deliver their message.
Maybe congregations don’t have to be picture-perfect. Maybe I need to loosen up my expectations on how people should dress when they come to church, how often they should talk to each other during the sermon, how many services they choose to attend, and how often they look at their phones.
Maybe music and worship don’t have to be picture-perfect. Maybe I need to loosen my expectations on how the worship team ought to lead, the lighting (or lack of lighting) in the room, whether people are standing still or moving to the music, and what type of songs are sung.
Maybe pastors and their families don’t have to be picture-perfect. Maybe I need to loosen my expectations and extend a little grace when I see things I don’t like. Maybe they don’t have to say hello to me as often as I want them to, or respond to every text and phone call, or ask for my opinion/advice on something, or constantly smile all the time.
O God, may I never be so focused on the superficial that I miss Your heart for the church and forget to love the people.
“We are far more impressed with the appearance of fruit than the actual quality of it.” Kelly Minter, LifeWay Women’s Forum 2017