I’m beginning to wonder if excellence is positioned to become (or has already become) an idol for the 21st-century American church. What begins as a noble pursuit can quickly take the form of the siren’s song, seducing us, beckoning us to steer the ship into the rocks.
Remember a few things:
- You can impress people with artistically and technically excellent services (at least, in the short term) but you can’t impress God.
- You can dazzle people into following you and giving you their money, but you can’t dazzle people into the kingdom of God. And even if you could, Jesus didn’t try.
- The apostle Paul made it clear that any of the excellent things a person might do (speak in the tongues of angels, for instance) were just noise without love.
Maybe the problem is the way we define excellence in terms of production. Excellence doesn’t equal more. Sometimes the most excellent thing you can do in your service is to do less. Strip down the band, leave the screens blank, and save the laser-light show for another time. How excellent would it be if you did that and God showed up? In other words, excellence and taking it up a notch should not be considered synonymous.
If excellence is the ladder you’re climbing, enjoy the journey. Don’t be surprised, however, if you get to the top and find that your ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. Obviously I’m not advocating that we do things poorly or half-heartedly, but I am advocating that we have a different goal in mind.
The kingdom, love, worship, redemption—these things are worth pursuing, and they’re often messy. On top of that, they usually have more to do with the activity of God than our best efforts.