Maybe we don’t need to aim for excellence

It is not unheard of for churches to want to aim for excellence. Very often, churches want things to be slick and professional. They feel things are a bit cringeworthy when they’re just a bit rubbish. And I totally get – and agree – there is no virtue in being rubbish or cringeworthy on purpose. But I just wonder whether aiming for excellence is that good an idea.

I appreciate the view that if we aim at nothing we will certainly hit it. So I don’t think we should be purposefully aiming at being useless. But if excellence is what we’re aiming for, I’m afraid my little pokey church just isn’t ever going to measure up. By the standards of objective excellence, our church is never really going to hit that. And, if I’m honest, I think that’s okay.

I am increasingly of the view that we aren’t really aiming for excellence; we’re aiming for faithfulness. We aren’t really aiming to be objectively brilliant; we’re aiming to be competent. We aren’t really aiming to be professional and amazing; we’re aiming to do our best to the glory of God.

if we are aiming for excellence, we will never hit it in our church (or, at least, with such rarity that nobody notices when we do and we are hardly marked by it). But we can certainly be faithful. And in seeking to be faithful, we can seek to do our best to the glory of God. Now, our best may well – in fact, almost certainly won’t be – excellent. But it may well be competent, and faithful, and done to the best of our ability, and therefore God honouring nonetheless.

Mediocrity is okay. Competence is okay. I am quite sure many more people were ushered into the kingdom through mediocre, broadly okay efforts to share the gospel with them than have been led to the Lord through absolutely excellent stuff. That’s not because the excellent stuff is somehow, perversely, bad in reality. It is simply because more of us are mediocre at best and because the just-about-competents are the overwhelming majority of people doing evangelism, I am convinced that is the means by which most people are saved.

And you can, frankly, make that same point with preaching, discipleship, church growth and literally anything else the church might do. Most of us are not excellent. If we were all excellent, it would cease to be excellence any more. Excellence is, by its very nature, only possible for a select few. It is, indeed, the very thing that marks them as outstanding at whatever it is. Which means most of us won’t be outstanding or excellence. We’ll be fine. And yet, more has been achieved with fine, broadly okay, less than amazing preaching, discipleship and strategies than has come about through apparent excellence for no other reason than there is much more of it about and sheer weight of number means mediocrity takes the win.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we aim to be mediocre. We honour the Lord in seeking to do the best we can do for his sake. But, let’s be honest (and I appreciate I’ll not make it as a motivational speaker), more often than not, our best just ain’t up to much. It certainly isn’t excellent. It often isn’t as terrible as we might think. It is, when all is said and done, passably competent and hard mediocre. But I think the Lord is perfectly honoured through that.

So, let’s not worry about excellence. It’s a measure most of us necessarily will not meet. But we can honour the Lord in our mediocrity by being faithful. Let’s all aim for that.