Excellence in Ministry

June 1, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Me and el staff team are reading a book about church, leadership, focus on lost people, etc.  That’s right. We read books.  This will be the 4th book we’ve read together as a staff in the last 8 months.  We read sections and discuss them each week at staff meeting.

Today we ended up talking about “excellence.”  That is a leadership buzzword at least in church circles.  Simply put, you want what you do at your church to be done very well.  You want the music at your church, whatever the style, to be done well–excellent.  It is the same with your teaching, you want it to be excellent.  The same goes for small groups/Sunday school or children’s and youth ministries.  If you are going to do it, do it with excellence.

This isn’t about style. This is about whatever your style, you do it excellently.

Here is the question(s): Does that strike you as secular or unspiritual?  Does that kind of talk belong in talking about church or ministry?  Do such things matter?

If you object, what I want you to suggest is the alternative.  Instead of being excellent, ministries should  _________.  There are lots of things you could put in that blank, for example, “love Jesus,” “be focused on people,” or “provide snacks.”  However, all of those, especially snacks, can go hand in hand with excellence.

Do you think it is important, but overemphasized? Underemphasized?  What do you expect or anticipate from the church that you attend?

Someone recently said that commenting on blogs is “over.”  If it is, then this will have been a waste of time, but then I’ll know.  I really do want to know what you think.  So, let’s discuss.


13 Responses to “Excellence in Ministry”
  1. Cory Nelson says:

    Instead of being excellent, ministries should be Gospel centered.

    Gospel centered aspects of church (teaching, music) can be excellent. But excellent aspects of church (teaching, music) are not always Gospel centered.

    I feel like excellency is overemphasized. People can end up feeling like they must be wonderful at preaching or bass playing before they can step up and serve the church and the surrounding community.

  2. Carolyn Loften says:

    First you don’t start a sentence with ME. I digress, excellence isn’t a bad thing. It means working with the gifts God has given you and do your best instead of just leaning back and says “that wasn’t bad.” I want my church to be called to God’s purpose with all it’s members giving their best (excellence). Our pastor leading the way with messages that inspire and convict.

    Oh well, that’s enough. I’m his Mom.

  3. cloften says:

    My bad, El staff team and I. Is that better? #LoveMoms

  4. Carolyn Loften says:

    Yes! Always the obedient son.

  5. Scott Sutton says:

    Excellence is definitely “spiritual”! Verses come to mind like (paraphrasing from my own poor memory here): “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable; if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think of such things”, “whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as though you’re working for God, not for man”, “be excellent at what is good; be innocent of evil”.

    No way should excellence be feared as being “unspiritual” or “secular”, whatever is even meant by those terms!

    All forms of worship should be done excellently; otherwise, why even bother worshiping?

    My over-emphatic 2 cents ;-)

  6. Peter Freund says:

    My two cents,

    First, the word “excellent” means “extremely good” or “outstanding”. It is a word describing the quality of the work, not the nature of the work done. When it comes to the nature of the work, we can look at things like “Gospel centered”, “service-oriented”, “God-honoring”, but those aren’t qualitative descriptions. So, “Gospel centered” and “excellent” are not mutually exclusive. “God-centered” describes the nature of the activity in terms of purpose. If you someone asked you “what do you do for a living?” you wouldn’t answer “I work excellently.” They’d say, “WHAT do you do excellently?”

    Second, let’s put this into the context of relationships. Taking the distinction made above, it is one thing to say I am a Godly husband, another thing to say that I am “extremely good” at honoring God. Again, the second is qualitative. It tells how well you are doing the first. In a church context, there are things we can do to communicate truth and foster healthy relationships. It is possible to do these things, but not do them very well, just as it is possible to not be a very good friend to someone else, e.g. you don’t call them often, you give them bad advice, you always do what you want to do. The point of excellence is that it is a means to an end, not an end in itself (unless we are talking about excellence in character). A frequent issue of my own, I do certain things for my wife, but if I really knew her better or if I worked harder, then I would do the things that really make her feel loved, not just the things I like or know how to do. See, I could do that better, more excellently.

    I think some people object to the idea of excellence because they think that being accepted as we are is mutually exclusive with doing excellent work. But, take marriage as another example. The marriage vows seal the marriage, but you can still not be a good husband. In any relationship, would we really want to say “I accept you the way you are, so don’t worry about being a good friend/husband/wife. Just be OK. Don’t learn about my interests, or go out of your way for me. Just kind of do the minimum.” In the end, almost everything we do at church is going to affect people. Excellence is not about who we are, it is about the effectiveness of what we do.

    So, excellence is not an end in itself, unless salvation is works-based, or you are a perfectionist. Excellent is a means to an end. Practically speaking, how about this for a practical meaning of excellence, esp. in a church context: “being really effective at what we do”. It represents how hard we work, not the nature of our work.


  7. Kwee Lewis says:

    It’s seems to me that in a world where so much focus is on self, amazingly few really put out effort to be the best self they can. So many just do the minimal required, or what it takes to get by or just get it done. They don’t really care, not even that what they produce or the person they show to others is not entirely complimentary to theirselves. It’s all “whatever, dude.” It’s no wonder so many people just don’t care. Excellence, it seems to me, has become equated with ego, luxury, etc. It’s no wonder we graduate students that cannot read or do simple mathematics. So many depressed, sad, young people with low self esteem. No one calls to them to be excellent, well, in anything. Being excellent is no longer cool, or for the ordinary common man. I think it’s a very deep societal problem. And very sad, a very sad comment on the current state of affairs.

  8. Danica Freund says:

    Excellence is about how you do something, not a thing you do. Excellent & Gospel-centered are not either-or’s. Why not strive for excellence in being a Gospel centered church? Or strive for excellence in any other way we serve God, are witnesses to others, grow more like Christ, serve those in need, use our gifts to glorify God. You see, excellence is not a goal in itself, it is a manner in which you do everything you do.

    If we love God & are grateful for all He has done for us, shouldn’t we give Him our best, in other words, do everything with excellence for Him?

    It’s not a matter of being arrogant, unless you put your focus on your own achievements & measure yourself by how well you do. But if your focus is on God & doing your best to honor Him, that is striving for excellence. It’s just a matter of why you want to strive for excellence in what you do. And more importantly, if you don’t, why not? Isn’t God worth it?

  9. Danica Freund says:

    …oh one more thing, if you do something with excellence, it shows that it is worth a lot to you. If you don’t, it shows that it is not worth as much to you.

  10. Sarah says:

    I don’t think excellence is unspiritual or even unbiblical. The two things that come to mind are “doing work as unto the Lord” and the parable of the talents. I wouldn’t want to do a shoddy job if my work were seriously going to be presented to the Lord (which, I guess all work is even though I don’t think of it like that).

    In my opinion — and this is only mine, not really Biblical and certainly not directed at anyone in particular — I think that dismissing excellence as secular is an excuse to be lazy. “I don’t need to be excellent. God will take care of it. I just need to be seeking His will.” To me that just seems like a cop out. “I’ll go do this mediocre work and let God bless it.” If I had to guess, I don’t think God really likes that approach. It reminds me of people who don’t think they need jobs because they think God will provide, which I also do not think is Biblical.

    I really like Charles Wesley’s thoughts on this topic — work like it depends on you, pray like it depends on God. To me that rings true. I know it doesn’t depend solely on me, of course, but that does not absolve me of the responsibility to work hard and as if it did rest on me.

    To build on Peter’s thoughts above (which I enjoyed) I think that excellence and God-honoring are not in the same dimension but they are orthogonal to each other. There are all kinds of things that can be done excellently — not all of them are God honoring. There are all kinds of God honoring things — they can be done with varying degrees of mediocrity or excellence. To me the key is to find the intersection of excellence and God honoring things. Those are where you can have impact.

  11. Clint says:

    Since when is giving your best to God be a bad thing ?

  12. Cory Nelson says:

    I agree with the motivations listed in everyone’s comments about why you should strive to do well in ministry. I’m certainly not advocating for a lazy, half-hearted church. I just failed to clarify my first comment. We need to define what excellent work in ministry actually is before we can measure how well it is being done. What I meant earlier was that we put too much emphasis on being excellent in “minor details” like quality of music, facilities, etc. These aren’t bad things of course, I just think they have become so elevated that the measure of a church falls on how good the music is or if the building is comfortable.

    Christ came to preach good news to the poor…and He also sang a hymn after the Last Supper. Christ didn’t come to sing hymns. But I assume Christ worshiped through that music very well. So no, excellent “things and abilities” aren’t bad, they just aren’t the desired end. I’m sure everyone here would agree. We have all been given gifts that are to be used for the building up of the church. And we should do them well. An excellent church has everyone using their gifts to glorify God and build one another up.

    Some gifts just seem more important than others in the modern church.

    So what sort of things are we talking about when we speak of excellent ministry? What does excellent ministry do?

  13. Larry Darnell says:

    I think it depends on how you define “excellence.” As in the verse listed above, if you define excellence as “whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as though you’re working for God, not for man” then I think the pursuit of excellence is Godly and highly desired. If, as many churches have done now, that means that only the most highly qualified professionals are allowed a place of service in the church, then I think it is absolutely not appropriate or Biblical.

    We are all commanded to give our best to God, and if we are, then the church in which we have been called to membership should be welcoming of that. The Bible is clear that we are all given gifts and talents that we should use in the service of God. Sadly, many churches now exclude a lot of people called by God to use their gifts because they are not top flight pros. We get more concerned about “being professional” than being a fully functioning and inclusive church body. Read the discussions on praise and worship forums around the Internet and see the lengths praise leaders go to keep people off of the platform and out of music ministry, to ensure only their absolute best people are shown off to keep a good image. It is kinda scary and definitely not Godly.

    In summary – giving your best to God in all things all the time – good. Excluding people from service because you are running your church like a business and trying to “measure up” to the world – bad.

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