Reaching for ExcellenceBy Jamie Hart
August 25, 2020
Have you ever opened a brand-new Apple product? For most of us, the answer is, of course.
While Apple obviously spends a great deal of time and money on the product inside, they also give significant attention to packaging design, how things go into the box, what is included, how they are presented upon opening, etc.
In his book, “Inside Apple,” Adam Lashinsky describes how one Apple designer spent hours figuring out the tiny tab that shows where to pull back the invisible, full-bleed sticker that adheres to the top of the iPod box.
Why put so much effort into something so small? As you open the box of an Apple product and unpack the contents, the company is communicating a message to you. They are saying, “You just purchased a product from a company who is dedicated to excellence.”
Everything in the box says that Apple values it’s product. With sleek, sharp lines, attention to detail and sustainable packaging elements, Apple is preaching its message to you. It’s communicating what’s important to them. It’s impossible to miss.
What would happen if the church got the same passion for excellence? What impact could we have if we were careful about every detail, if we evaluated everything we did to be sure we communicated the right message?
“Come, on, pastor,” the objection might go. “The church isn’t a business or a corporation. Get off your high horse; it’s just a church.”
Though that exact phrase has never been said to me, that message certainly has been communicated frequently. “We aren’t using this old couch anymore, pastor. Can I drop it off for the youth ministry?” “I didn’t take the time to practice, but can I sing anyway?” The list could go on.
Messy classrooms, shoddy landscaping, and hastily prepared lessons seem to be the norm in church life. And any attempt to strive for something better is often met with excuses and frustration.
I’m not saying that people don’t care about the church. I’m not even saying they don’t care about quality, but there is a cost to quality. It’s not necessarily about money. There is a cost in time and effort and people are tired with little time to spare. But I believe that reaching for excellence is a worthy goal for the church.
The Reasons for Excellence
There are two primary reason for churches to pursue excellency: God’s glory and making disciples of those created in His image.
As God’s people, we are to display “His excellencies.” Consider 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
When people come to our church, from the parking lot onward, we are communicating what we believe about God.
He is loving and welcoming, so we need to be loving and welcoming. He loves children, so we need to love children enough to keep them safe and secure. He wants to be worshipped (John 4:23-24) and so we need to worship Him with the excellence due His name. He has given us His Word, and it should be preached with passion and clarity so that people will be impacted and changed.
At every level in every ministry we are proclaiming a message. In everything we do and present, we are preaching about our God. He is excellent and we should present Him that way!
Every week potential disciples of Jesus Christ will walk into our church. Though we certainly need to live on mission and engage the world around us, people who actually come to our church have already taken an important step toward being a disciple we can impact.
Statistics say that a person will make a decision about a church in the first ten minutes of their visit. Before they hear a note of a worship song or a single word preached by the pastor, they have already gone a long way into deciding whether or not they will come back. If we have failed to achieve excellence in our facilities or in how we greet and welcome them, we may have lost the opportunity to impact that person for Jesus. We failed our mission.
In every aspect of what we do, we need to reach for excellence because it’s all a part of making disciples.
The Road to Excellence
So how do we achieve excellence? Follow the three steps of evaluation, feedback, and change.
It has been said that “Evaluation is the currency of excellence.” At Harvest, we want to make evaluation a part of our culture.
Every week, the staff and I sit down to evaluate the Sunday morning service. How was the greeting/welcoming ministry, the worship ministry, the preaching, etc.? We look at everything with the hope of finding ways to improve the service and increase the excellence.
Author and head of an international management and training firm, Ken Blanchard popularized the phrase , “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” That means we all must be able to receive honest, helpful criticism.
Evaluation results in feedback and feedback must be received with humility. If we keep our eyes on the goal of excellent discipleship for God’s glory, then we’ll want honest, loving, and helpful feedback.
Another pithy saying sums up our need for change: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
Evaluation and feedback should result in change. In fact, evaluation and feedback are worthless unless it results in some kind of action. This can be frustrating to some. “We’re changing it … again?!? Can’t you guys get it right the first time?” But rarely does anyone get it right the “first time.” Just ask Thomas Edison who famously failed close to 3,000 times before successfully harnessing electric light. We will have to make several attempts at anything before it’s working well.
Quality takes time, resources, effort, and lots of patience. But when we consider what we are doing in the church, excellence should be our only standard.
In his book, “Dangerous Calling,” Paul Tripp addresses the importance of displaying God’s glory with excellence from the pulpit:
The great question of the gathering is, will the hearts of this group of people be captured by the one glory that is truly glorious or by the shadow glories of the created world? As a pastor, I want to do everything I can to be used of God to capture the hearts of those gathered by the rescuing glory of God’s grace, by the insight-giving glory of God’s wisdom, by the hope-giving glory of his love, by the empowering glory of his presence, by the rest-giving glory of his sovereignty, and by the saving glory of his Son.
That’s why we reach for excellence. We have a magnificent glory to display!
 In this article, Blanchard says he heard the saying from someone else: https://www.bkconnection.com/bkblog/ken-blanchard/feedback-is-the-breakfast-of-champions