Ever open a brand-new Apple product? (Of course you have…silly question! Who doesn’t have at least one iDevice in their tech arsenal?) Apple actually spends a great deal of time and money on 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 the consumer where to pull back the invisible, full-bleed sticker that adheres to the top of the iPod box.
“One after another, the designer created and tested an endless series of arrows, colors, and tapes…”
Why is packaging design so important? 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 and they value the environment. With sleek and sharp lines and minimal use of non-biodegradable materials, Apple is preaching it’s message to you. Its communicating what’s important. 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 church isn’t a business! It’s not 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?” …and 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 and I’m not even saying they don’t care about quality. But, there is a cost to quality…and I’m not talking 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 a high level of excellence is imperative! Reaching for excellence is a worthy goal. It’s worthy because of our mission!
“The Mission of Harvest Bible Chapel, Fort Wayne is to bring Glory to God by making disciples”
The Reasons for Excellence
As God’s people, we are to display “His excellencies.” Consider 1 Pet. 2:9
1 Pet. 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.
People will come into the doors of our church and 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 that should be preached with passion and clarity in such a way that people will be impacted and changed! At every level in every ministry we are proclaiming a message…we are preaching about our God. He is excellent…we should present Him that way!
Ever 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 10 minutes. Before they hear a note of a worship song or a single word preached by the pastor, they have already decided whether or not they will come back. If we have failed to achieve excellence in greeting, welcoming, or facilities, we may have lost the opportunity to impact that person for Jesus and 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?
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…how was the preaching? We look at everything with the hope for finding ways to make the service more excellent.
Ken Blanchard said “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” That means that we all have to 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…this one from Mark Twain; “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 are changing it…again?!? Can’t you guys get it right the first time?” Rarely does ANYBODY get it right the “first time.” ::insert Thomas Edison illustration here:: 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 one considers what we are doing in the church, excellence is the ONLY standard for which we should reach! 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!