For God’s Sake: God deserves our best
Guest preachers can also bring a fresh, needful perspective to ministry. It was over 30 years ago that a guest preacher taught me a valuable lesson I have never forgotten.
In one of his messages, this colleague observed how pastors rightly tell congregations that Christ and the things of Christ are of greatest importance, far greater than anything else in life.
Yet, he continued, they often present Christ and the things of Christ to their congregations in last-minute presentations that are slapped together, sloppy, and ill-prepared. The working person in the pew, has seen well-prepared, professional presentations at work, and struggles to reconcile from this hot mess how Christ and the things of Christ are of more importance than their work.
His observation challenged my thinking. Since then, I have strived to present well-prepared, yes, even professional presentations in ministry.
Sadly, striving to do all things well is not always welcomed by congregations. Early in my ministry in that church, I was given leadership of the music ministry including the choir. I had been a professional musician only a few years before and approached this new responsibility with professionalism.
My predecessor had groomed the choir to accept “good enough” and they pushed back when I pressed them to improve. “We are not professionals,” they protested. I regarded their attitude as a cop out. After God did some necessary worked in my heart, I asked the choir members for their forgiveness for treating them like professionals. Then I challenged their thinking, “I was treating you like professionals.
Professionals do what they do for money. I know that you sing for a greater reason – the glory of God!” That was a turning point for that choir and for me.
I have also encountered the “that’s good enough for a small church,” mentality many times since then. It shows that congregations can fall into the same trap as pastors. Doing all things well is not a sliding scale governed by the size of a congregation, as if being small is grounds for carelessness. Our motivation should be the surpassing greatness of our God.
The pursuit of doing all things well in ministry requires a measure of caution. We must not think that a message’s effectiveness rests in the quality of its presentation. The medium serves the message, and it should rightly convey the supreme importance of the message. Nor should our standards exclude the layperson from serving. The maxim from which I work is that we should give the Lord our best.
In Exodus we learn how God gifted Bezalel with creative wisdom to craft the tent of meeting, its exquisite furnishings, and the ark of the covenant, to God’s specifications. I am confident that Bezalel never said,
“Aw, that’s good enough.” God deserves our best!