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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Pursuit of Excellence

Photo: Marc Aert

I’ve read all kinds of articles and comments about excellence in the Christian life. They’re about excellence in music, art, writing, and every other aspect of a normal life. They all state basically the same idea: Christians should be very good at what they do.

No objection here!

The Bible clearly states that we’re to do everything—even eating and drinking—to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 15:58) It also says, That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace (Psalm 144:12).

And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy (1 Chronicles 15:16). We know that David himself was an accomplished harpist. (1 Samuel 16)

Send me now therefore a man cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men that are with me in Judah and in Jerusalem, whom David my father did provide. Send me also cedar trees, fir trees, and algum trees, out of Lebanon: for I know that thy servants can skill to cut timber in Lebanon; and, behold, my servants shall be with thy servants (2 Chronicles 2:7-8).

Skill, polish, excellence. It should always be our goal.

Now, let’s talk about churches.

One church is large with much trained talent. They have three pianists who play beautifully. Their offertories inspire and uplift. The choir sounds fabulous. Their voices blend perfectly in praise to God. The organist has a degree in classical organ. The walls vibrate with the pipe organ’s sound. The senior pastor is an orator. Each message is poetry. Each of his Bible studies is a masterpiece. The building itself evidences much thought. It is pleasing, functional, and the stained glass windows add to its light and beauty. On top of that, the acoustics are phenomenal.

Excellence.

Another church meets in a dilapidated building—not by choice, but because of location and lack of resources. There are dents in the walls and a funny color of green on the outside. Sunday services begin with all the people—mostly women and children—singing enthusiastically in happy expressions of praise. Their faces shine with love for God. There’s no piano, no organ; indeed there’s no instrumental accompaniment at all. Not even the song leader has ever studied music. Some sing beautifully, and some not so well, but no one can deny it’s a joyful noise. The pastor gets up and preaches a biblical sermon. He’s not eloquent, but he preaches to the best of his ability in this, his second language. He preaches the gospel clearly and makes practical applications for all his hearers, even the children. As a rooster crows outside, one of the children shoos a hen out of the back of the open church. Babies cry, and women fan themselves. The pastor preaches on.

Excellence.

For ye are bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body,
and in your spirit, which are God’s.
(1 Corinthians 6:20)

Which church glorifies God more? The one with money, status, and a gorgeous building? The one filled with talented, trained musicians and ministers? Or the one in the bush among chickens and other livestock, where people sing from the heart, and where the pastor sometimes searches for the correct word?

Excellence.

While I absolutely believe in training, education, and living to the greatest of our potential—with the goal of glorifying Christ—I believe that the definition of excellence in worship, and indeed in daily life, might be relative to circumstances.

What is great, superior, of real quality, excellent?

Glorifying God.

I’m curious: what are your thoughts? Please feel free to comment.
  

4 comments:

  1. Beautifully said! It is so easy to get caught up in the "if only I had the resources" mentality of serving the Lord. What am I doing with the resources I do have? Great thoughts.

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    1. Thank you, Susan! God bless you in your ministry.

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  2. Well put, Lou Ann. So often when I see articles or posts on this topic, it's with an either/or mentality - which one is better? But it isn't either/or - it's both/and. Both scenarios can be glorifying to God or dishonoring to Him, all depending on the heart.

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    1. Amen, Barbara. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. God bless you!

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