Excellence is the collision of hard work, skill and persistence. It is the by-product of refusing to compromise until excellence is achieved.
After God spoke the universe and everything in it into existence he declared it all as "very good" (aka "excellent") in Genesis 1:31. He instilled in Adam and Eve, his crowning and culminating achievement during six days of work, this same desire and capacity for excellence.
As a result of this excellence "gene" passed onto humanity from God himself we have works of art like the Mona Lisa, plays like Les Miserables and movies like The Amazing Spiderman. But this drive for excellence is not only in the arts. From excellence in car-making to bridge-building to widget-development we see a reflection of God's commitment to quality control in the better pockets of industry. In the upcoming Olympics we will witness a world of excellence on display for all to cheer in countless sports. Whether a person knows Jesus as their Savior or not they can sense his passion for excellence simmering underneath, waiting to be unleashed.
For eight years of my life I was a roofer. Thankfully, I worked for a boss who demanded excellence. He used to tell me that we should roof every house like it was the house of Jesus Christ himself. We weren't the fastest roofers or the cheapest roofers but I think we did the best work. Why? Because our boss's commitment to excellence seeped down to us.
As ministry leaders our Boss's commitment to excellence should set the pace for our work as well. I love the words of Paul to the Colossian believers when it came to excellence in their work, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" Colossians 3:23,24.
Almost a quarter of a century ago when I was a church planter, my buddy Rick and I didn't have a lot of brains or money. But we did have a commitment to excellence. We planted and pastored Grace Church with a passion for excellence. What we lacked in money we made up for in prayer, hard work and creativity. Today, Grace is still a growing, thriving church which is as committed as ever to excellence on every level.
As President of Dare 2 Share Ministries I have the privilege of leading a ministry full of people who are committed to excellence. If you've been to a Dare 2 Share conference you've tasted the results of their unbending commitment to quality. From the registration process to the dramas to the music to the volunteers to the teaching to the training manuals we have been blessed with a team full of people who are committed to excellence. This is not accidental. We view our conferences and training materials as offerings to the Lord and we refuse to offer a "spotted lamb."
So how do you consistently deliver excellence whether you're a youth leader (YES!), a church planter, pastor or ministry leader? Here are a few pointers I have found helpful throughout the years:
1. Pray for wisdom relentlessly.
God promises in James 1:5,6 to give wisdom if we ask for it in faith. He WILL give you the wisdom you need for that Sunday school lesson, outreach program, sermon or ministry project if you ask for it. Wisdom is more important than having money. Wisdom will show you how do it cheaper and maybe even better than if you had all the money you needed at your disposal. As Solomon reminds us, above all get wisdom!
2. Refuse to give up until it's fully cooked.
When one of my sermons or one of our training tours are still being developed I'll say, "It's not fully cooked yet." In other words we have not yet reached the "excellence threshold" as of yet. More work, processing, arguing, writing, praying and prepation is needed. This can be a messy, draining process but it is worth it!
Refuse to teach a lesson, preach a sermon or release a product until it's fully cooked. Salmonella poisoning can happen when you undercook chicken and serve it. A different kind of poisoning can happen when you serve an undercooked sermon or lesson, the poison of boredom or indifference to spiritual things. Salmonella poisoning can pass in a few days but spiritual poisoning can get people sick of Christianity for a lifetime.
You'll know in your heart if it is all it should be or a few degrees from the best it can be. Raise the bar for your work and refuse to compromise because you serve a God who is committed to excellence!
3. Fail forward.
Think back to that corny (yet powerful) reminder our teachers used to tell us, "Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better best." I love that phrase, "Never let it rest." It reminds us that when we fail that we should fail forward. It reminds us to learn from our failures and refuse to make the same mistake twice. Prayer, duct tape and an unquenchable commitment to excellence are what we need to truly succeed.
Live a life and lead a ministry committed to excellence on every level and one day, when you stand before your King, you'll hear him say, "Well done my good and faithful servant."
How excellent would that be?