Your Story Affects What You Expect

Last night, after the kids decided to do their usual firestorm in the house and right before heading to bed, I saw this. Look at it quickly and look away. What do you see? Do you see what I see? Probably not.

It took me no time to realize that shortly before this alphanumeric pyramid showed up, Asher was spelling his name. A-S-H-E-R. See it now? Of course you do. How could you have missed it . . .

If you missed it (and most of you probably did), you missed it because Asher isn’t your kid. He’s mine. I walked in and had no doubt what I’d find. He loves trying to spell words and does it regularly. He even yells out random assortments of letters in hopes that it is a word (“Dada, what does B-A-A-A-A-B-C-U-U spell?”). My history formed my expectation—and I found what I was looking for.

Now, think about your church. It doesn’t take us long to become insiders, does it? It doesn’t take a lot of time to have a history full of scripts, expectations, and language that we assume everyone else just sees. Statements and questions like these show up at a pretty standard pace at our church by insider-newcomers:

  • “Where are your Sunday School classes?”
  • “We chose this church because they had community groups.”
  • “Do you guys have small groups?”
  • “Are you a Spirit-filled church?”
  • “Do you teach more topical or verse-by-verse?”
  • “Why aren’t there altar calls in this church?”

Insiders ask insider questions. Outsiders ask outsider questions. Insiders know what to look for—or at least they come with a set of expectations affected by their history and they look for those things. Outsiders don’t. Insiders can get connected fairly easily when looking for a new church. Outsiders can struggle at an insider church.

I was recently asked this question, too: “How long is the 9am service?” Nothing spiritual there. Nothing about altar calls, groups, ministries, etc., simply a, “I have a place to be and I need to know how long the service is” question. Now, you might say (if you’re a Chapel insider), “Our services are the same, you’re asking the wrong question, the right question is, ‘How long are your services?'” That was my first thought. But people who don’t speak the language have no idea. People who don’t sit through our services are clueless.

A few years back someone said, “When I walked into The Chapel I thought I might catch on fire.” Their history was “I’m not the kind of person who belongs in this church—in any church.”

Neither are the insiders. We’ve just been here so long we thought we assumed the seat was always ours. We see A-S-H-E-R wherever we go and wonder why others don’t. Insiders are outsiders who simply forgot where they came from.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

2 Replies to “Your Story Affects What You Expect”

  1. It is so true. But there is also an upside to “forgetting” where you came from. When we look back & can no longer see the starting line, it is comforting & encouraging. Although we will never get rid of our flesh this side of heaven, we realize that our Lord has lead us a long way on the road to transformation.

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