The ONE THING for today

Meeting Expectations (Part 3/3, Diagnostic questions)

  • Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV) For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

All right, let’s review…

First, please keep in mind that this blog is written especially to pastors and teachers—men and women charged with serving God’s people by imagescommunicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is why I wrote last Saturday:

  • Following are three diagnostic questions that I have developed over the years that have helped me to work smart and also to pace myself.  I have found that they help me to balance the reality that I must be a caring shepherd first if I hope to be an effective preacher but also keep in mind that I am a limited resource and must not allow the overwhelming needs of my people to completely drain me of life and vitality.

Note: These diagnostic questions will help anyone who desires to effectively relate to others in Jesus’ name.

So here are the questions (the first two have been discussed in previous blogs):

  1. What is God saying (or doing) in your life? (Discipleship)
  2. If you could only give me one word of advice what would it be? (Leading/Administrating)
  3. What is the one thing I could do right now to make your life better? (Dealing with expectations)

No matter what you feel you are duty bound to preach or teach to your people, you must not forget that the listener’s hearings is going to be affected by their expectations.  To fail to address those expectations is going to greatly hinder your ability to connect with your people and serve them well.

I know; often people’s expectations may seem to you unrealistic and unrelated to what you’re trying to teach them and where you’re trying to lead them.  No matter; expectations must be dealt with.

For example, if after a long hard day at work you come home expecting a nice meal time (whether cooked at home or eating out) followed by a little rest and relaxation only to discover that the game plan for the evening is a quick sandwich and then cleaning out the garage, I can assure you—no matter what your spouse, who loves you with all their heart, has to say about this game plan—your expectations are going to have to be addressed before the two of you can move forward for the evening.

The same is true for your people.  They come to your church or class having tramped through all kinds of experiences over the last week and also lugging a huge backpack of past history and sit on the pew hoping that you’ve got some relieve to offer.  To fail to address this is to set both you and them up for a bad experience.

But how can one person both know and address everyone’s expectations?!  Answer: You can’t.

But here’s what you can do: You can address some of the expectations day-after-day during the week and do this over a long period of time.  As a result, on any given Sunday you will have built up enough equity in the lives of the listeners that they’re willing to give you an ear about the “cleaning out the garage” issues even if their hopes had been to eat a good meal and then chill out in front of the television.

That’s the beauty of this third diagnostic question.

I could probably write an entire chapter about this question but let me highlight a few benefit of asking it regularly:

1) It shows you care (people don’t care what you know until they know you care)

2) It helps people clarify their expectations (often you are judged ineffective because of vague and uncertain expectations—people just “feel” like you should be doing something more but they are not certain).

3) It takes away excuses (assuming you follow through on your promise, you’ve taken away people’s excuse to feel hurt at you because you have followed through on what they clearly asked you to do.)

4) It makes serving your people manageable, i.e. “the one thing”. (Of course you can’t meet every expectation, no matter how hard you try, but a steady effort at taking care of one thing over a long period of time shows your people that you care and that you’re trying to make a difference.  That way, when you stand before them and God and declare, “Thus says the Lord…” the honest and good-hearted listeners will be willing to give you a hearing.

It’s kind of funny, but the very reason I’m writing this blog today is because I asked this third diagnostic question to three young couples one evening in April 2012.  Their answer was they wished I could be available to speak into their lives on a regular basis.  That evening I made a commitment to them that I would do my best to blog every day (excluding Sunday)—giving them “one thing” that they could do to make their lives better.  Now—fourteen months later—I’ve given an honest effort at keeping my word and will continue to do so.

I guess it shows how potent and powerful these questions are!  You’d better be careful asking them—you may “paint yourself in a corner” // but it will be a good corner if you love your people…and then you shouldn’t be preaching and teaching if you don’t love people.


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