I’m a big fan of excellence (as opposed to those of you who are big fans of awfulness). When we do things with excellence it is a reflection of God, who does all things with excellence. I firmly believe that we should strive for excellence in every area of the church. I’m so grateful for our talented worship team, outstanding children’s ministry team, fantastic sound crew, creative youth team, and all the other folks in my church who work so hard for the glory of God. Coming to church should be a “most excellent adventure” (See Bill & Ted).
But, problems arise when we place our confidence in our excellence rather than in the mighty power of God. God absolutely does not need our excellent performance. He doesn’t need my kicking worship team. He doesn’t need my well-crafted sermon. He doesn’t need my zany, delightful children’s ministry, which could also double as a Chuck E. Cheese. If I have these things, wonderful. But the truth is, God often does his most powerful work through those who are weak and unimpressive.
John Flavel says:
How the weak have been used for the good of the church! Christ did not choose eloquent orators, or men of authority in the courts of kings and emperors, but twelve poor labourers, and fishermen. This is the most ridiculous course that can be imagined, in appearance, for such a design. And yet, in how short a time was the gospel spread in all the kingdoms of the world. (Voices From the Past, 140)
Jesus established his kingdom on the shoulders of fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes. He chose Peter to lead the charge out of Jerusalem. Peter, the guy who denied Jesus three times. Peter, the guy who gave up gospel ground to the Judaizers. Peter, the guy whose mouth seemed to always run ahead of his brain.
Jesus could have chosen the most articulate orators as his spokesman. He could have chosen great war heroes, or political superstars. He could have built a campaign of shock and awe and power. Instead he chose fisherman. Guys with cracked hands, plain speech, minimal learning, and the constant aroma of raw fish. The disciples were not power players in the Roman world.
God will not allow us to receive any of the glory, so he builds his kingdom through and in spite of our weakness. If your worship team is mediocre, don’t freak out. Instead, work toward excellence and trust that God will use your weak, halting efforts for his glory. If you stutter and stammer when sharing the gospel, don’t get discouraged! Seek to improve your gospel communication, but more importantly, trust God to use your stutters and stammers to bring salvation to the lost. If your sermons feel like duds, don’t sink into despair. Improve your sermons and improve your confidence in God. If you feel like a constant parenting trainwreck, seek to grow in your parenting and trust God to use your trainwreck efforts to work in your children.
God doesn’t need us. He’s managed to achieve quite a bit without our help, thankyou very much. In his kindness he allows us to participate in his mission. Let’s strive for excellence. But more importantly, let’s place our confidence in the God who does great things through weakness.