You’ve just gotten off a flight. It was delayed leaving, cramped while flying and late landing. You trudge to the luggage carousel fully expecting to file a lost luggage claim. After a long wait, there it is, riding the conveyor a bit tattered or dirty from where it was dropped on the ground.
“Well, at least my luggage made it,” you mumble to no one in particular.
And there it is, your revealed impression of the airline industry. Your expectation is so low that the “silver lining” in all of it is that your luggage actually showed up. Millions of travelers a year share the same experience, collectively resigning them to expect mediocrity from the airline industry in America. Sure, there are individual employees who pursue excellence, but overall, seldom does anybody get excited about the experience of airline travel.
Do you or your church resemble the airline industry? Ouch! I know that is a pointed question with which to launch into the new year, but it is one that needs to be asked. My intent is not to offend but to stimulate thinking. Unfortunately, too many Christians, and as a result churches, have settled into mediocrity and the effects are devastating. First the church loses its vibrancy, then it grows stagnant and then it dies. Statistics prove that to be so, and we lose dozens of churches a year in the Tennessee Baptist Convention and hundreds across the Southern Baptist Convention.
The majority of leaders, organizations, churches, businesses and people in general reach a level of satisfaction that has the great danger of accepting mediocrity as the norm. “Well, we’re the average church,” some may say. Average is accepted as good enough. But average is being stuck in the middle. It is the worst of the best and the best of the worst. More importantly for Christians and churches, average is the opposite of everything Jesus is, and it is unacceptable in Kingdom work.
A friend recently reminded me of an old adage: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it’s not going to change you”. So here are three ways I hope to challenge you in this new year so that your life and the life of your church will be marked by excellence in 2015 for the cause of Christ.
Evaluate where you are. When you enter a destination address into your GPS it first pinpoints where you are heading and then pinpoints where you are in relation to that destination. That’s what evaluation is; it pinpoints where you are and where you’re heading. Be honest here. You may identify a desired destination, but is the road you’re traveling actually taking you there given your current location? Evaluate if where you are will get you where you want to go.
Adjust your course. It really is that simple. If you miss a turn while driving, your GPS will usually say, “Recalculating.” It still has your destination as a fixed point but is now helping you find another way to get there. It adjusted your course. Listen, your life, your ministry or your church may have missed a turn or two along the way. Adjust. The Bible is our GPS and we know that individually God desires sanctification as our destination. Adjust to get there. Collectively, the destination He desires is that the church be the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10) sharing the Good News of the Gospel. Adjust to get there.
Engage…period. Life is too precious to meander and live in mediocrity. This is especially so for the Christian who is called to do everything – even the mundane activities of eating and drinking – to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We must engage the cross of Christ and pursue Jesus with personal excellence. We must engage the Great Commission and pursue the spiritually lost souls around us with collective excellence. Pastors, our message and our preaching must not be with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4). If the call of Christ to the human heart is about anything it is about engagement.
Jesus didn’t call us to stand passively by and watch from the sidelines. He called us to get in the game!
I’ve shared previously that one of our major objectives as Tennessee Baptists over the next 10 years is to see at least 50,0000 Tennesseans each year won to Christ, baptized and set on the road to discipleship. That is only good enough to keep pace with our population growth, but from where we currently are, it is going to take excellence to get there. Beyond that it is still going to take a miraculous touch by the Master’s hand.
I want desperately for the Master to lay His hand to vessels of excellence for the purpose of sharing a most excellent Savior so that people can experience a most excellent salvation. Now that’s a journey worth taking in 2015. Let’s take it together.