In my library, I have several books from the business world, mostly best-sellers. Generally, they are about how to achieve excellence in business. How to be the best.
I am not in the business world and have little interest in being there, but I believe there are principles that apply anywhere: business, life, and church. And that's my interest: How do we live and act with excellence, especially as followers of Jesus?
I'm part of a church where there is a high level of activity. We are an urban congregation, and nearly half of us are immigrants or refugees. There is lots of noise and movement, as folks go here and there doing their thing, usually good things. But after several years of observation, it seems to me we are engaged in doing many things with little focus on doing them well. Would it not be better if we were engaged in doing fewer things, but doing them well? Unfocused churches produce unfocused Jesus-followers.
I am convinced we are leaving some important things poorly done. At the top of the list is the task of making disciples, a central charge to the church. Everything else flows from that. And more, I believe we are not very different from most other churches. This disturbs me.
We - Christians generally - claim to be the people of God. We claim to represent the one true and living God, and to have - at least in significant measure - The Truth. At least implicitly, we speak and act in the name of God.
And yet we are satisfied with mediocrity. We accept shallow thinking, unchallenging spirituality and sloppy, often outright sinful, behavior and actions. If this doesn't bother you, it should.
Under the Law of Moses, the people of Israel brought sacrifices to God. Some were required, and others were chosen. The thing they all had in common was quality: No blemished animals, and no leftover food. God got the first and the best. And that seems reasonable, after all, considering who it is we worship.
It seems to me, however, that we bring God our leftovers. Our best goes to the "real world" of work, of play, the world into which we pour our resources. And then God gets what we don't care about. If there is anything.
It's unthinkable that we "know" we will give an account to God for our time here, and yet live a life that denies the fundamental nature and importance of the God we claim to follow.
A recently released book has caught my eye, and will soon be on my shelf. It's called Christian Atheists. The premise is simple: Many of us claim to be Christians, but live as if there were no God. God is an intellectual concept, but of no practical importance in daily life.
I can become impatient with these folks, but in fact, the impatience should be focused on the "leaders" who live and promote mediocrity in the name of God, leaders who assume God's approval. "Well, the pews are full, the money is flowing, and nobody is fighting in the aisles, so, yeah, I guess we're doing well."
This is an embarrassment to the God we claim to serve. Some things are both worth doing, and worth doing well. And a few things carry a further imperative: This must be done well, or we are for nothing.