Nowhere did Jesus emphasize having fine things as the mark of superiority. Never did he say to his disciples, “OK, guys, we are going to cross the Sea of Galilee today, but no more fishing trawlers for us. We will take the yacht, the one with Stormtrack Radar and onboard theater, so we can catch the game between the Nazarenes and the Samaritans.”
What is excellence as it relates to the local church? Do we always have to be bigger and more expensive to be "excellent." One church this year spent over $1 million on it's Christmas pageant. That may have been a small portion of their budget. Maybe they felt it would lead many to Christ. Maybe they just thought God was worthy of the best Christmas show they could give. But if big and expensive is what is meant by "excellence," then that means about 99% of churches are failing when it comes to excellence.
Before you call me Judas complaining about the alabaster being spent and spilt on the Lord, let me state that I don't have a problem with spending money. Ask my wife! It takes money and sometimes lots of it to do what God desires of us. And lavishing gifts to the Lord is the most worthy thing we can do. The motive is so important here. (See this quote from Furtick) But I'd say God is much more concerned about "keep my commandments" than whether we have the best pyrotechnic show around.
I think there is a healthy debate here. It's actually been around for a long time. Do we build the fancy Cathedral or give the money to missions? Or are we doing missions by building the fancy Cathedral? Believe me I wrestle with similar questions all the time.
We only have so much time and so many resources. How do we use them? If I'm an excellent father, does that mean that I'll be a poor pastor or vice versa? What we need is discernment to use ALL of the resources that God gives us in a way that is pleasing to Him.
If excellence means a slick Sunday morning production designed to impress, God doesn't need it. It is the power of the Gospel that changes lives, not the fancy lighting.
Before the lighting people send me mail, I think this is all about the motive. In our own church we use transitions, practiced musicians - at least most of the time - and we have a planned service. Where I battle, and why I wanted to write this article was because sometimes I fall into the "excellence" trap.
Thanks to Dan Schantz for reminding me that it's not all about excellence.
It's really about faithfulness.