Leader to Leader

Greater Expectations

December 15, 2017 | Posted by Dominic Rivkin

So here’s how I imagine things went down: John the Baptizer is locked up in a tiny cell. In the deep darkness of this smelly prison, he wonders what has gone wrong. He adjusts his itchy camel-hair tunic and paces back and forth, playing the whole thing over in his head. This crazy call to be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The moment in the river, hearing the thunderous roar, seeing the Holy dove, feeling that Jesus, his very own cousin, is the long expected Messiah.

That was when things seemed to simultaneously take off and then immediately head south. The right words said to the wrong people resulted in a trip up the river, to this place…this prison. This was SO not the plan. So where’s Jesus now? Where’s the Messiah? Where’s the one expected to “set the prisoner free?” John has questions, not the least of which he asks the disciples to share with Jesus. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

In the Advent season the pressures of ministry can seem like a dark and dank prison cell. Each and every year seems the same, we find ourselves held captive by completely unrealistic expectations. Just what was this ministry life supposed to look like? When we’re in the thick of it–deep in the expectations of other and even of ourselves–we may begin asking our own set of questions. “Was I seriously called to negotiate terms for ministries battling for their Christmas program time slots? Do I really have to manage midweek Advent soup suppers, five Christmas Eve services, Christmas Day worship and be on point for all the Sundays as well? Where will I ever find the time for my own family and friends, no less the visitations and meetings that never seem to end?”

In the midst of all the expectations of ministry, we might find ourselves crying out “Come, Lord Jesus” just so that we don’t have to do this again!

What exactly do we expect as leaders who are called to follow Jesus? God made a promise to His people, that One would come who would give sight to the blind, strength to the lame, cleansing to the leper and sound to the deaf. He even promised One would come to give life to the dead. This One has come, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the One who, through His life, death and resurrection comes to “set the prisoner free.” When we take this on as our job, we’ll quickly find ourselves exhausted and angry, trapped in the prison of unrealistic expectations.

What is Advent other than the opportunity to realize how our God frees us from this prison to have greater expectations for our lives and ministries? Ultimately, we could say that the final promise of God, the one we share in here and now, is the only one we are expected to fulfill. This is the opportunity to participate in proclaiming the Gospel (day after day, year after year) until Jesus comes again or we go to be with Him. The poor will have good news preached to them. Through you.

This one thing becomes the priority of our leadership in ministry and the one truly realistic expectation. Like John we are called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, the Advent of our Messiah and our King! We too are called to prepare the way of the Lord, to make his paths straight and His Gospel clear. In the words the Spirit gives to you people will know there is only One who was, and is, and is to come. Just as I suspect that John found a measure of comfort in Jesus’ words in His captivity, I too pray that the words of your mouth and the meditations of your heart remain forever in Christ Jesus our Lord–our Rock, our Redeemer, our Greater Expectation!

Dominic Rivkin
Rev. Dominic J. Rivkin is Founder and Mission Developer of LINC Los Angeles, a mission agency dedicated to launching transformative faith communities in the city. LINC Los Angeles is listening to and immersing in the local communities in order that we might identify, encourage, equip, and empower neighborhood leaders to launch and support new ministries to reach new believers. Find out more by visiting our website, www.lincla.org.