The word expectation is truly a powerful word. It implies that someone knows something about my current behavior and is anticipating something different about my future behavior. Each one of us deals with expectations. The employer expects a certain work ethic from his employees; parents expect a particular character level from their children; coaches expect a performance level from their players. We are surrounded by expectations every day.
As the ideal model for every parent, our Heavenly Father has expectations for His children. Within the context of His local church, He outlines behaviors and best practices for His people. As I considered the book of 1 Timothy recently, it occurred to me that Paul’s letter to his young protege is packed with expectations for Pastor Timothy and his flock.
No longer serving with Timothy side by side as he had during the second and third missionary journeys, Paul wrote the still relatively young Timothy about how he and his people ought to behave themselves in the house of God. God has expectations for the local church, and many of them are clearly outlined in this power-packed book of 1 Timothy.
I’ve traveled sufficiently and participated in enough ministries to know that we fundamentalists make a big deal about standards (leadership requirements, ministry expectations, etc.) And well we should. However, our mistake sometimes lies in the way we explain and communicate those standards. At times, we unnecessarily elevate a standard to the level of a Bible principle and are thereby guilty of overstatement. Other times we fail to offer helpful guidelines whereby our people may more readily and effectively obey the Bible and are thereby guilty of understatement.
The key to communicating ministry expectations effectively is to painstakingly connect them to the Scriptures from which they are derived. The book of 1 Timothy is full of these kinds of ministry expectations, and local churches would do well to establish the footers of their ministry expectations in the solid bedrock of its truth.
Using the book of 1 Timothy as our guide, the following points comprise some expectations for those who serve in the ministry of our church. The first expectation we see Paul explain to Timothy is faithfulness.
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do." (1 Timothy 1:1–4, emphasis added).
For 2½ years Paul and Timothy labored together to plant a church at Ephesus. When it came time for Paul to leave Ephesus, he left Timothy with the daunting task of leading the work. Timothy’s work not only involved the instruction of new believers (and all of the other work one would associate with a new church), but also entailed the confronting of strong personalities who endeavored to fill the teaching positions in the Ephesian ministry.
God never promised that the ministry would be easy; in fact, He promised just the opposite! (See 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12.) As Paul had instructed Titus to stay in Crete, so he instructed Timothy to abide still at Ephesus. Christian workers need to view the oppositions of ministry as a necessary storm on the way to the destination, not a reason to abandon ship!
The writer of Proverbs promised that a faithful man would abound with blessings (Proverbs 28:20). Faithfulness in ministry means that I am engaging in my call to serve in good times and in bad times, when I feel like it and when I don’t. Leadership can trust me because I am reliable. Unlike the unreliability of a broken tooth or a dislocated foot (Proverbs 25:19), I can be called upon and counted upon. I understand that faithfulness means that I am: (1) in my place, (2) on time, (3) all of the time, (4) fully prepared to, (5) competently render my service.
Faithfulness often seems mundane and frequently goes unnoticed and unappreciated by people. It was (and is), however, a benchmark of the ministry of our Lord Jesus who promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrew 13:5). Not everyone can sing, teach, preach, cook, or lead. But everyone can, by God’s grace, be faithful!