A Good Little Church
There are a lot of good things in life. We all make choices in what is good enough. Like how many premium channels on our TV. Perhaps extra things that we deserve after all our hard work. The harder we work the more careful we are with our spare time. (I’m not sure about what spare time is exactly.)
Many of us save up time and money to go on nice vacations, drive better cars and even the choice of our homes. Maybe we choose better meals or entertainment over other comforts.
When I was in high school all I needed to do was to keep Cs and an occasional B on my report card to keep my folks from punishing me. You see I learned just enough to keep a good life which meant satisfying my parents ….. barely!
The point is I never really tried to reach any higher. My grades were average perhaps a little below. My parents wanted more and encouraged more.
However, just getting along as a good or average student, more precisely mediocre student, was good enough for me.
Our world has always had two extremes: Today there are some that are ok with just barely getting along even if it is not under their own efforts, they live on government programs to stay alive and the opposite being the people that strive to be the best in everything. Most of the people in the world today are someplace in the middle, average, middle of the road good enough kind of folks.
Today, as I look at our world I wonder what are the differences between good or average and excellent. I definitely don’t want to go the other way.
So, is it several steps? Good …better ….. Best…
I wonder would my life be any better it I tried to be excellent in high school? I believe that it is fortunate that I will never really know the answer.
How about a group, lets say a church. What might the difference be if a church moves from Good to excellent?
Think about this, If you were looking for a church home, would you want to attend a good church? That sounds fine.
OR would you want to attend an excellent church? That sounds better.
As a church we are the people that live in this world that represent God. We are to tell the story about the Son of God and live lives that reflect our belief in these stories.
How well are we doing that?
What grade would we get if our teacher sent a report card?
Poor, Satisfactory, Good Excellent
Perhaps more important, what grade would be good enough for us?
Paul describes the Christian life in Colossians like this, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
Whatever you do… Word or deed..
That sounds like a Christian is never off duty.. like a Christian is to live a “goody two shoes” life.
Why would Paul be concerned that Christians give their best effort in every area?
Probably the most obvious reason is that mediocrity grows into indifference. It is so easy to fall into the trap of settling for the status-quo or good enough instead of spending the effort to strive for excellence.
There is a big difference between doing a pretty good job and doing something with excellence. Excellence always requires much more work and sacrifice.
Consider the sacrifice God made by letting His Son die in our place. Wouldn’t you agree that He deserves the very best we can give in return?
Today we are still looking at some of the foundation principles necessary for a church to grow, we want to take a close look at maintaining a commitment to excellence.
As Christians we need to understand two terms: mediocre and excellence.
Webster defines excellent this way: superior, very good or best of its kind or superior. So excellence is striving to be superior our the absolute best in our efforts.
Webster defines mediocre this way: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance: ordinary, or so-so. I will add good enough.
Mediocre means stale, like lukewarm coffee or room temperature milk, why would we want to be satisfied with good enough?
Revelation describes God’s reaction to mediocre like this:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
God is displeased with mediocre, displeased with anything less than excellent service. He desires the best we have to give.
The best is not the same for all people and only you know when you have done your best because of your relationship and faith.
In the Old Testament Jewish worshippers were commanded to sacrifice an ox or a lamb that was perfect, without spot or blemish. God required worshippers to give back to Him the first fruits of their crops or flocks, the best portion.
First fruits and spring animals in thoes days that was pretty expensive. To give at the beginning before you knew that God was blessing you…what a risk.
Our scripture starts with the call to close the temple doors so that people could not make worthless sacrifices. God’s anger is toward the people that are representing him, the priest. He has seen that they are allowing less than perfect offerings and this is a misrepresentation of God. It misleads the people into thinking that God did not require quality or hold to his terms. The priest failed to realize that the offerings were pointless because they were rejected by God.
You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the Lord,’ and you turn up your noses at his commands,” says the Lord Almighty. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and mutilated, crippled and sick—presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?” asks the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who promises to give a fine ram from his flock but then sacrifices a defective one to the Lord. For I am a great king, says the Lord Almighty, and my name is feared among the nations! (Malachi 1:13-14)
God is displeased when we give Him offerings of inferior quality; He considers it as if we are trying to cheat Him.
Perhaps you are thinking that this is a word for the priest and that today we are not expected to bring sacrifices. Oh, I see, it is from the Old Testament, It does not mean anything to us today…Right?
Ok, how about connections to the New Testament. This New Testament portion of the Bible is about the ministry of Jesus, his sacrifice on our behalf and how the world was changed.
In the Old Testament God raised up priest to instruct the people abut God and what he expected. The priest acted as a middle man and the connection to God only worked if the priest did not take shortcuts or accept less than the best.
After Jesus was crucified the relationship was changed. There are no more priests that act as intermediary. Every Christian is a priest:
1Peter 2:4-5 (9-10)
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Today, the priests are still accountable to God. You and I are accountable to God. That includes being accountable for the quality our sacrifices.
Today There is still a sacrifice required and it can not be mediocre or just good enough.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
How do we know that we are making our lives pleasing to God?
How do we recognize excellence in our lives?
Excellence is recognized by the details. Luxury cars always have lots of bells and whistles. The seats might be leather instead of genuine NAGUA hide. They may include mapping systems so that men don’t have to stop and ask directions. Excellence is normally recognized in the details, like quality, expense, and comfort in worldly things.
Many times Christians are guilty of not paying attention to the details; we often do what we need to just get by, we make things good enough and move on.
However, we are not the judge of what is good enough, That’s Gods place.
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops.
For the Jewish worshipper it would have been a lot cheaper and easier to offer God a defective animal rather than a perfect one. They could sell the perfect one to someone else and put the money to good use. It would have been more convenient to offer out of the end of the harvest when you knew what kind of year you had instead of the beginning of the season.
God reaches into our lives considering every detail, he offers the place as children at His royal table.
Christians should worry about details. Attention to details is the difference between doing a good job and an excellent job.
It is easy for a church to say they will live the life of excellence, but it is hard and tiring and expensive.
Eventually, mistakes are going to happen. Eventually, decisions are made for convenience or comfort because they forget about the goal of excellence.
They forget the reason they decided to try in the first place… the excellence offered by God to us.
Sometimes a church will try something and it seems to fail and that starts a trend of holding back. Some worry that the plans are too big or has to many details and they fear failure. All too often that fear infects the whole church and the goal is abandoned.
We have to remember the point that it our choice to give God our best and if we do less as a church or individuals we have a problem with our priorities.
Hind sight is always clear when you think of bad things and fuzzy, for the better, on good things. A few weeks ago. I did not get a letter when most of my class mates did. The letter was an invitation to participate in the Honors day program. I emailed asking why I had not been invited to participate.
The school told me that my GPA was too low. I asked the next logical question was what GPA was required. They replied 3.5. Perfect is a 4.0
I pulled up my grades and found that my GPA is 3.73333 and I again asked what the problem was.
They said that my GPA was calculated including all of the grades….. At about that moment I remembered a discussion with my High School principal explaining that your permanent record is with you all of your life.
For the past two years I have tried to be an excellent student. I gave every effort and spent all the time to do my best. And now I learn that my permanent record will always keep me from participating in the honors program. My Collage classes from 24 years ago are a part of my permanent record.
That makes my cumulative GPA 3.3243.
So I should give up. If I can’t reach my goal, I need to stop trying so hard.
Absolutely not, settling for good enough or average now is a new failure. It is letting the world hold me down and it makes me hide my real advancement even from myself.
Jesus taught us that we have to be faithful in the small things before we can receive the bigger blessings. Faithful does not allow you to give up if you miss the mark and were doing the best you can.
Striving for excellence simply means making every effort in preparation and execution to do the very best you can.
Some people may think that being excellent means being a large church with tons of programs. Others may think excellence means being perfect.
Chuck Swindoll describes Christian excellence like this:
“Excellence is a difficult concept to communicate because it can easily be misread as neurotic perfectionism or snooty sophistication. But it is neither. On the contrary, it is the stuff of which greatness is made. It is the difference between just getting by and soaring – that which sets apart the significant from the superficial, the lasting from the temporary.”
We need to realize that when we aim for perfection, we will miss the goal more often than we hit it. However this will always allow us to concentrate on putting forth our best effort.
Excellence is the state of heart and mind that we are going to do the very best we can in everything we do. Because, God deserves our best efforts.
God gave the best He had – His own Son, Jesus Christ – to suffer and die in our place for our sins.
We need to be committed to stop giving God your last-minute, half-hearted, left-over, and warmed-up efforts.
Stop giving God what you wouldn’t give to your spouse, your boss, or anyone else.
I believe that God deserves our Best.
I remember a story about a call to the butterball hotline. They answer he phones 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on how to prepare turkeys, recipes and directions for preparations and thaw and cook times. One call they has a few years ago asked how long can you keep a frozen turkey.
The helpline responded that for the best results they recommend no more than 6 months. The caller asked, what if it has been over two years. Is it still editable?
The attendant said that as long as it had remained hard frozen it would be safe to eat. She again suggested that the tenderness and most ness would probably suffer compared to a fresher turkey.
The caller thanked he and said I will get another turkey for the family and donate this one to the church.
We have a good little church. There is nothing wrong with being a good little church. I do believe that God would like us to be an excellent little church.
That means that we need to not let being good keep us from being all that we can be.
All Glory be t God!