Raise Your Expectations
Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at
work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and
--Ephesians 3:20-21 CEB
At the end of the third chapter in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the author offers a prayer for the audience of the letter. The prayer gains in force and scope, as if the author gets carried away, and ends with a crescendo of a declaration that God “is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us.” Those are strong words. Are they true?
In some sense, my almost 20 years in full-time ministry and the ten years prior in education and part-time ministry have all been a wager that words like the ones at the end of Ephesians 3 are true. In my career, I’ve largely found evidence to the contrary. Church fights, hypocrisy, poor leadership, focus on the wrong priorities, and churches that function as social clubs rather than faith communities have at times made me cynical. Perhaps, the most dispiriting part of being a minister is seeing church people, for some reason, supporting an institution while at the same time refusing to believe it will accomplish anything of importance. The low expectations of church folks always astound me. I often wonder why people so fearful of shrinking budgets and pining for the glory days of old even bother to show up at church. It’s no wonder most of our culture has moved on. Who wants to be a part of a group so determined to fail?
Yet, I believe in God, so I can’t let go of promises like the ones in Ephesians 3. Deep down I believe that God is aching to “do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work with in us.” I imagine God unmoved by our collective shrugs still looking for an opening to pour that power into us in order to do more than we ever think possible. I’ve had glimpses of this kind of outbreak of power along the way—moments when people got carried away with their generosity and belief that they were making a difference in the world. Those few glimpses give me hope that I’ll find a group of so-called believers who actually believe God can do something amazing through them.
When I talk with leaders of a congregation, I like to ask them about the history of their churches. In many cases, there is little to tell regarding membership numbers or the various ministers who served there. Yet, sometimes churches tell amazing stories of generosity and grace. One church started an after-school program in a housing project after MLK was assassinated that continues to this day and has grown to help kids raised in that project break out of generational poverty. Another church was active during the HIV/AIDS crisis and helped start their city’s first hospice for people with the disease. Another church welcomed in a refugee community and began holding multi-lingual worship services so their American-born members and the refugees could worship together as one church. Those stories exist if you look for them. No matter what the churches look like in the present, somewhere back in their DNA, God did something “beyond what we could ask or imagine.”
Park Hill Christian Church has some good spiritual DNA. There’s no denying that in the past people in this church got a little carried away by God’s “power at work within us.” There are stories of generosity given to people in need and ministries that started small with an idea but blossomed into something big. It’s all there in your DNA.
Two weeks ago, I visited S.P.E.A.C. (Southern Platte Emergency Assistance Center) in the lower level of Parkville Presbyterian Church. I was greatly impressed with its operation and reach. Then I learned that S.P.E.A.C began here at PHCC in Meade Hall. It changed location because it outgrew our space! I heard about the inspiring work of Helen Wright and how PHCC volunteers have served at the food pantry every week and on the board for 31 years! That’s a pretty amazing story—and it’s not your only one.
My question for PHCC is do you only believe that God worked back then through PHCC or is God capable of working in some kind of similar way here in the present as well?
It’s the same God you’ve been worshipping all this time. God didn’t change. What’s keeping you from letting God’s “power at work within us” raise some holy havoc now?
After our 40 Days of Prayer and Purpose, the church board approved the idea of Bold Hospitality, sharing our building and resources with the wider community to dramatically represent the way Christ welcomes’ all to share in God’s blessings. Jill Watson, our board chairperson, has already asked for you, the people of PHCC, to begin thinking and praying about needs in our community and the groups at work trying to meet with them. If they need space to meet or carry out their work, PHCC has plenty to share. Who can we partner with—in the same way we partnered with other churches and non-profits to found S.P.E.A.C to make a real difference in the Northland. Do you really believe that God has already given you everything you need to do similarly amazing things again? If not, why not?
If you think about it, you’ve already done this kind of thing in the past—S.P.E.A.C. is a great example—all you have to do is actually raise your expectations and trust that God “is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us.”
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
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We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.