Creating a Culture of Expectation

April 3, 2019

Jill Alventosa-Brown -- Pastor of Congregational Care for  Older Adults, West Market UMC, Greensboro, NC

When you look at Jesus’ life and ministry, it becomes clear that he is preparing the disciples for a time when he will not be physically present with them. He teaches, he heals, and he sets an example for how they are to serve one another and others. He demonstrates for them who God intends to include in the heavenly kingdom. Jesus also impresses upon them that the kingdom of God has come near and that they are essential in helping God’s kingdom be realized on earth.

I have also noted that Jesus does not always give the disciples every answer or solution for the life of discipleship. I don’t think it’s because he wants to “keep them in the dark;” rather I think it’s because Jesus is trying to encourage and cultivate a culture of expectation and growth. He knows that the disciples need to figure out a few things for themselves—they need to grow in their faith and understanding of God’s ways. And perhaps most importantly, they need to move from drinking milk to eating solid food. Jesus needs the disciples to grow up and mature into a faith that can guide others in a life of authentic discipleship.

Paul understood the need to mature in the faith when he responded to the divisions within the Corinthian Church. He observed they were infants in Christ, not ready for solid food and he chastises them for their jealousies and quarrels. He challenged them to grow up, to do their part in planting and watering, but ultimately to leave the growth in the hands of God. He encouraged them to create a culture, a climate where those they had planted and watered would, by the grace of God, mature into him who is the head of the body, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter Storey, retired Bishop in The Methodist Church in South Africa, has often spoken about human beings’ “addiction to division.” What Paul spoke about for Corinth and Bishop Storey speaks about in South Africa and beyond continues to this day. Our society is still very much addicted to division. We would rather fight and disparage others than seek to understand.

How are we to lead in such a climate? If we, who seek to lead the church in our present day and time fail to create a culture of growth where all are expected to mature in the faith and not rely on a few to have all the answers; then we will miss rich opportunities to nurture, envision and expand God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

As I seek to find new ways to reach people with the good news of the Gospel, I need you to share your understanding of scripture, your experiences, your reasoning and traditions with me. There is power in the collective wisdom of the whole and if I am tempted to think I have all the answers—the poverty of such thought will diminish any possible outcome or growth. Or if you expect me, as a leader, to have all the answers—you have shortchanged yourself and limited what God wants to do in and through you. Leaders, both lay and clergy, who with humility and restraint, can allow for, expect and facilitate the growth of those they seek to lead, will find a depth of passion and a wealth of talents available for God to use.
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