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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Don't Overdo Excellence

ExcellenceDo you ever feel that striving for excellence Sunday after Sunday after Sunday takes the fun out of ministry?  Ever feel there is a danger in trying to hit one out of the part every week?  (Cause next week everyone will want to see one hit just a little further?)
And how do you square quality (excellence) with consistency?  Steve Sjogren wrote a small piece on excellence over at his "Growing Edge Buzz".  He states...

"An over-emphasis on the value of excellence, which I now see all around me across the US, kills the attitude of fun. People can sense an attitude of overkill on the serious end of things.  If you think that people will forsake a church that is wasteful of people’s time, they will even more quickly forsake a place that is deadly serious. There is nothing that kills a great atmosphere faster than an inflexible attitude that comes out of a weekend service that resembles something that looks more like the Tonight Show than it does a gathering of Christ-followers who are getting together to experience the presence and power of God and the simple teaching of God’s word with lots of practical applications. 
You can read all of Steve's thoughts from "Growing Edge Buzz" here.
Seems to me (as in most things) that there needs to be some balance set in place.
Question:  How do you balance quality, excellence, consistency, etc. along with the practical quality application of God's Word?  Do you find it a difficult struggle?
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June 14, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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While it is a challenge you can balance excellence with authenticity. To do so retains the "humanity" of the worship experience that some over produced services lose.

Posted by: Kent | Jun 14, 2006 9:22:29 AM


I have strong feelings on this--I think that church should be excellent every week. I think we should have the best in all that we do. And I think we should give our best at all times.


I always say that excellence does not equal perfection! One of the universal truths is that we screw something up every week at NewSpring...actually--it is usually me messing it up!

We try hard--but always fall short--which REALLY brings the God factor into play. We understand that if God doesn't show up--it doesn't matter how good the service is.

So...we work as if it depends on us and pray as if it depends on God!

Posted by: Perry | Jun 14, 2006 10:38:11 AM

Amen to this post. While a few might actually be able to pull off something as entertaining as the Tonight Show (which would be cool) I think that you can be "real" and "excellent" at the same time. But really the issue mentioned here is "perfectionism" rather than doing your best and better each time. The words "excellence" and "perfection" are easily confused.

Posted by: Rich | Jun 14, 2006 11:42:05 AM

It seems like churches go to extremes in either direction. On one hand there are "excellence" fanatics and the ministry hums with the precision of a well oiled machine, but it can feel cold or indifferent. Other times there are congregations that are full of love and fellowship, but the services never start on time or there are noticeable issues that no one ever addresses because we all "love" each other so much.

I feel like we can have both. You can have facilities, systems and structures that are maintained in excellence while at the same time having people who really care about the folks walking through the door.

In our church we have created a standard for excellence which everyone is taught as they begin serving. But the concept for excellence is not perfection or comparison to someone else or ministry. Excellence is simply being a little better than you were yesterday. It's this smaller incremental ability to improve which has brought about significant changes over time.

Posted by: Juan Montoya | Jun 14, 2006 11:49:25 AM

I think the balance here becomes what type of excellence you are striving for. Let me explain.

I would think a non-negotiable is what I would call relational excellence. Are we relationally showing the love of Christ every, and I mean every time we come together to worship. Is there a lazy response of the church of someone who may be in our midst who needs relationship or is there a passionate pursuit of conversation and knowing new and seeking people. When it comes to relational excellence, we better hit it out of the park every week so that hospitality gift is in full use in our worship together.

The next kind of excellence is what I will call preparation excellence. Is it evident that the people who are leading music, preaching, leading have prepared ahead of time? I think this burden lays on everyone, on the church members as well as the church staff. 1 Corinthians 14 implies each of us must prepare for worship in bringing an encouragement for one another. Corporate worship is to be an overflow of our heart. If a preacher gets up and it is obvious she hasn't prepared, then what in the world is she doing up there? If she isn't "prepared" then is she depending on the Holy Spirit to move through her? In short, is she sharing her heart or some canned message? That is a whole other subject.

The third kind of excellence is production excellence. This means, did every thing run smoothly, did we flow nicely etc. This can become important but I think it is the least important of these three. but let me say this, if you are trying to reach this culture you should strive to not distract people. Paul makes reference to this as well in how people should only speak in tongues one at a time etc.

The scriptures speak to all of these principles. Our challenge is to live the scriptural principle and worship in the Spirit, not worship by our own strength and excellence.

Posted by: Josh | Jun 14, 2006 1:03:51 PM

I agree with several of the above posts. I think the key factors are balance, flexibility, and heart. We shouldn't be so focused on the timing and logistics that there is no room for the Spirit to move and change the direction of a service or minister to someone in need, etc. We also can't be so loosely organized that it appears no forethought was given to the service at all. At a former church we had some worship leaders who were not the greatest vocalists in the world. But what they lacked in ability they made up for in passion. I'd take that kind of person any day over someone with only technical excellence.

Posted by: jhpw | Jun 14, 2006 1:37:03 PM

This is an excellent subject. I feel that God is bringing many to accountability in this area. While excellence is a Godly virtue, striving for excellence as a human being can be a challenge. What starts as a genuine move toward excellence can veer off down the road to "professionalism". Things can become extremely complex and stressful just to maintain.

Recently in our church our worship leader stepped down and moved on. It was rather sudden. Since 3 other members of the team were his family, they left too! This left us with a keyboard player and 1 singer. Add to that a couple of others who jumped in faithflly. I'll have to say that our worship has never been more powerful. The simplicity has been so refreshing. We had no choice but to do it this way. But it was God's choice. God has moved on me to make my messages more simple. I've even done it without power point! This experience has refocused us on the meaning and the importance of excellence. Many times in our striving for excellence we lose sight of the forrest because of all the trees. Thanks again Todd for the topic.

Posted by: Steve | Jun 14, 2006 5:06:33 PM

To whom am I doing it for... Am I doing it for the Lord or am I doing it to be seen in the eye's of men... Jesus has called me to serve Him and to do my best for Him... After all He is the only one I have please. If people don't like it, they have the right to vote me out. So... I'll just shake it off and step on it..

Posted by: Jeff Ruble | Jun 14, 2006 8:01:35 PM

Having re-read the poast and response again, it struck me that the problem in the majority of the church I am aware of is not the overdoing of excellence but the high level of mediocrity. There is the illusion of if you lack resources then excellence is not possible so why even try? What ever we do we ought to make the very best we can. The just getting by mentality seems to be an issue far more prevalent than the excess in excellence.

Posted by: Kent | Jun 15, 2006 9:10:27 AM

Theres a great deal of truth in what was said. We value excellence and 1 upping our experiences. I've been inspired by raving fans, good to great, and the 5 star church amongst many other works. I fully believe God is a god of excellence. We should strive for excellnce but not perfection. Perfection is what gets us in trouble.

One other thing I have noticed is that love and relationships trump excellence. In the early days of the church we didn't have much more than love and relationships and the church grew inspite of having a terrible facility, inspite of the fact that are worship was by boom box, even when the kids church was in the locker room of an elementary school right near dirty socks.

I love excellence and embrace it today. The bells and wistles that come with it do help get people in the door, but it is love and relationships that keep them there. Without it, they will walk right out the back door.

Posted by: Eric Jaffe | Jun 17, 2006 11:56:45 AM

We have a problem of having to justify what we are doing versus what another is doing because we must protect and build up our esteem.

A thought that comes to my mind is "walk within the light that you have." If a church is blessed with professional caliber musicians than it would be blasphemous for them to do a hack job of worship. On the other hand if a church isn't blessed with these musicians than they should do what they can. Both should rejoice in honoring God with the best THEY HAVE.

Remember the song "Drummer Boy"? Surrounded by Magi bringing expensive gifts he thought his gift was worthless...but it wasn't.

I have been proud of my ability and been dismissive of others inability then God sent me Henry. Henry was an elderly man, who had to walk to church because he didn't own a car. He had cataracts and probably didn't give any offering. But would Henry ever sing and not well. However, he had a joy in his heart that transcended his lack of ability that blessed the open hearted.

It would be wrong for me, a trained singer, to sing as Henry did. However, I should not take the position that my worship is more valid than Henry's because what I do more closely meets the standard of good singing.

Posted by: Wes | Jun 18, 2006 8:02:55 AM

I think the whole EXCELLENCE thing is deceptive. I have lost count of friends and associates who were failed businessmen, failed marriage partners, failed family members who got jobs at churches and then immediately began to preach about "excellence" to crowds who viewed them as elite. My own brother punched holes in metal for 4 bucks an hour before joining a denomination and getting a job as Pastor. Its odd to watch him preach business success sermons considering he was a minimum wage employee before going into the ministry. From the same mouth that proclaims, "I am going to kill my kids if they don't behave" comes the sermon, "How to have a healthy, successful family".

The whole excellence thing is creepy because it has too often been preached by people who didn't really have to be excellent at anything and yet feel compelled to preach about it on Sundays. That is dangerous and at its very foundation, deceptive.

Posted by: sheepwatch | Jul 9, 2006 8:03:12 PM

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