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Mediocrity Is Not Okay

March 26, 2014

I’ve been in worship ministry for over three decades, which is quite strange for me to think about, as I’m on the verge of turning 38. During that time, I have enjoyed serving alongside many leaders, guides, and mentors. To that end, I would like to thank the congregations I have been blessed to serve either while on staff or as a volunteer.

Topeka, KS:
Terra Heights Baptist Church, Wanamaker Woods Nazarene Church, Fairlawn Nazarene Church, Family Life Nazarene Church, Northland Christian Church, Central Park Christian Church, Topeka Bible Church, and Fellowship Bible Church.

Salina, KS:
New Community Christian Church

St. Petersburg, FL:
Central Christian Church

Wichita, KS:
Glenn Park Christian Church

I would also like to personally thank my parents, L.D. Holmes, Robert Brooks, Tim Maddock, R.D. Cogswell, Dave Henry, Steve Holmgren, Richard Sundermeyer, Dave Bennett, David Hinkle, Bryan Nelson, Bill Horn, Tom Hawks, and Chris Solwecki for speaking encouragement, truth, rebuke, instruction, and life into me.

If there’s one thing each of these places and people have taught me, it is the fact that God not only deserves our best, He desires it as well.

John 4:23-24 – “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

What’s strange about this truth is the appearance of the exact opposite of giving the best to God in many church settings. For some time there’s been a migration to mediocrity under the banner of getting everyone involved. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” While I don’t necessarily disagree with this sentiment, the premise tends to be taken so far afield that if there’s an open spot and a warm body next to it, the job is handed off. Good luck is wished without so much as a question of whether or not that person is actually able to effectively fill that position. This is UNBIBLICAL!!

Now, the Apostle Paul does state that we are to give ourselves as “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).” HOWEVER… he goes on to say, “ For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us (Romans 12:3-6a).”

This is an important distinction which he makes again to the Church at Corinth when he says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).”

As a worship minister, I have often been asked about the necessity of an audition process for prospective musicians, vocalists, and technical arts volunteers. This question has been asked by well-meaning folks who are inquisitive about the process for participating in Worship Arts at the various places I’ve served. This question has also been asked by the mean-spirited, the highly opinionated, and the “elect” who have “been doing this for 30 years”. These folks tend to find the audition process un-necessary, discriminatory, exclusive, or demeaning. My answer to all of them? Psalm 33:3 – “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Play SKILLFULLY and shout for joy!”

See what God did there? The truth of the matter in each of these situations is the same: God deserves our best, which means we all need to find where we can serve Him best.

A pastor I served under used to say, “If you shoot for mediocrity, you’ll hit it every time.” How true those words are! What if you were building a house, the general contractor shows up, and the slogan on his door said “Joe’s Construction: not great, but okay.” How quickly would you tear up that contract and send them packing?! Let’s take it a step further. How long would you have your current job if you chose to do “just okay” at it? We all know long-term gainful employment is based in part on our job performance. Do just enough to get by and see how long you’re in that position!

And yet many churches state, “not great, but okay” is good enough for the Creator of all the universe by their attitudes and actions…

What does God’s Word say about excellence? I’m glad you asked!

Daniel 6:3 – “Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”

Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 1:9-10 – “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”

At this point, you might be saying “yeah yeah, I get it… BUT, everyone is supposed to be doing something, right? I mean, at least we’re doing something, and doing something is better than nothing…” Maybe according to man’s standards, but not God’s. Take a look at these next two verses.

Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

2 Peter 1:3-4 – “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

According to Scripture, we are to work heartily, as for the Lord, who has called us to his own glory and EXCELLENCE. That’s right, excellence. God calls us to go beyond status quo… beyond just okay… beyond the warm body in an open position… beyond mediocrity.

This pertains to more than just the creative arts portion of worship. Just as vocalists, musicians, and tech volunteers must strive for excellence in what they do, preaching pastors must strive for excellence in their sermons. Sunday School and Adult Bible Fellowship teachers must strive for excellence in their lesson planning and execution. Small Group facilitators must strive for excellence in their sessions. Kids Worship leaders must strive for excellence in engaging and leading the younger generations to a love of God. Middle School and High School sponsors must strive for excellence in giving those students the ability to love Jesus and cope with an increasingly difficult spiritual climate. Guest services teams, ushers, servers, greeters, and docents must strive for excellence in order to give guests and members every opportunity to meet with Jesus while they are on the Church campus. Members must strive for excellence by passing up the handshake with a friend in order to welcome a guest family or individual.

Why? Because God calls us to excellence.

Go back to Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 for a moment. God not only calls us to excellence, He also tells us how we are to achieve at least a measure of it. How so? To quote the local realtors’ office, “Location, Location, Location.” Each person in the body of Christ is uniquely talented. Each believer is also uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit upon baptism. That means we all have a place in the body of Christ were we truly “fit”. It goes back to the whole idea of trying to put a square peg in a round hole. You might get it to go in, but you’re gonna deform it and potentially destroy its ability to fit where it was originally designed to go. Take a look at the rest of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12.

1 Corinthians 12:15-31 – “Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Look again at what God has done! We are all uniquely designed and gifted, with none more important or less important than the next part. Just because I am gifted to stand on stage and offer God my worship in the form of singing and playing doesn’t make me any more important than the person who is gifted to help set up and tear down tables each week in the Family Life Center for Tuesday night basketball and Wednesday night dinner.

What’s important is that we need to KNOW WHERE WE FIT so we can SERVE WHERE OUR GIFTS BEST EQUIP US TO FIT.

God not only deserves excellence, He calls us to His glory and excellence. Mediocrity is not an option. In fact, I would venture to say mediocrity is sinful. God doesn’t deserve “just okay”, He deserves the absolute best we have to offer. He offered His best for us in the form of Christ at Calvary, and we should give Him no less.

If you haven’t had opportunity to do so, there are three things I would encourage you to do in order to best find your fit.

1. Find out your personality type by taking a Myers-Briggs personality assessment. This will help you to better understand how you are wired, what drives you, what drains you, and how to best function.

2. Find out your strengths by taking a StrengthsQuest assessment. There is a cost attached, but it is well worth the money to find out the top five strengths you possess and how to harness them to be as effective as possible.

3. Find out how God has uniquely gifted you by taking a Spiritual Gifts Assessment. Even if you’ve taken one of these before, I firmly believe God adjusts our spiritual gifting as we grow and mature in Christ. I’ve seen this in my own life as well as others who are close to me, so taking one every 3-4 years is a great way to stay on top of what God is doing in your life and where He may be leading you in ministry.

God equips the called, but He also calls the equipped. That’s every single one of us! Find how you’re equipped so you can give God your best and serve Him with excellence!

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