Most of us desire excellence and would love to be excellent at what we do. Overall, I think this is a good thing and something that God would praise and encourage us toward. However, like almost everything, there is a dark side to excellence, especially when it comes to church. In short, I believe the goal of excellence can impede the mission of the church and thus we should think carefully about how we pursue it. Primarily this is because the pursuit of excellence at all costs will prevent you from developing people.

If a church has no appetite for anything less than excellent preaching, they will never develop preachers. If a church demands excellent worship, they will never develop worship leaders. On the other hand, we’ve all been part of something that wasn’t excellent and thought, “We won’t be doing that again!” So how do we balance the pursuit of excellence with the reality that inexperienced leaders will make mistakes? I don’t pretend to have this all figured out, but there are two things that I’ve come across that I think are helpful when working through this.

First, it helps to have growth habits in place. For example, before someone preaches their first message, they should spend time studying with the pastor, learning how they craft a message, and intentionally studying how they deliver a sermon. Then, after their message, there should be a time to reflect, debrief, and correct for improvement. This sounds so obvious, but it is incredible how many people preach their first message without any interaction beforehand or afterward (or how many elders never develop as preachers for the same reason). Opportunity does not automatically equal development.

Second, it helps to have excellence properly ordered as a value. If excellence is the highest value, then nothing can be allowed that will detract from excellence. However, if you order excellence under the development of leaders, you’ll be willing to miss on excellence if you can hit on leader development. One Alliance church that developed a host of young leaders once called this the “leadership tax” – the price they were willing to pay to have leaders.

The good news about all the above is that it is fairly easy to implement. By spending a bit of time thinking through what is more important than excellence, and by forming habits of training people, I believe that much can be done to both avoid the dark side of excellence and to help people develop into the ministers God has made them to be. As always, I’m here to help in any way I can.

Together with you,

ctweedy@rmdcma.com or (406) 647-2764