FTE Day 4: A Call to Excellence

[[Sadly, this post is more than a day late in terms of FTE’s actual chronology. I hope it won’t be more than a dollar short]]

I struggled a lot with writing about day four here at FTE’s leadership in ministry conference. It’s not that the conference hasn’t provided me with plenty of ideas to write about, it’s simply been difficult to pick one strong idea, distill it down to the important core, and then engage that topic humbly and authentically. But after an extra day of reflection, I think I’ve finally settled on a topic, and it involves one of the key components of FTE’s mission: excellence.

I am consistently blown away by the level of talent that surrounds me in the other FTE fellows. The talents are varied, running the gamut from teaching to preaching to advocacy to prophecy to listening, but the common denominator is a commitment to being the absolute best teacher or preacher or advocate or prophet or listener that one can be. I’ve long been a proponent of the idea that Christianity should be a motivator for excellence and not an excuse for mediocrity, but never have I seen that principle more incarnate than at this conference. Not only are we committed to developing excellence through higher education, but also through professional experiences like this conference, personal relationships, and continued service.

I think that, somewhere along the line, the Christian tradition, especially the Protestant church, lost its commitment to excellence. Somewhere we decided that mediocrity in the name of Jesus was the norm rather than the exception, and that true excellence was a form of elitism. I don’t really know when it happened, and I’m not interested in pointing fingers. All I’m interested in is reclaiming that tradition.

What if we took the words of Colossians seriously, and did everything “in word or in deed, as to our Lord Jesus”? What if our art and music (very subjective and contentious topics, I know) mirrored that reality? What if business that used Christianity in advertising and to gain consumer confidence actually made the commitment that they would provide the best services available? What if the Church was willing to admit that sometimes we get what we pay for, and we usually don’t pay for much? What if were willing to patronize artists instead of controlling their vision? What if we committed ourselves to the highest aspirations we could imagine, instead of settling for something in-between?

We may not always succeed when we strive for excellence, and heaven only knows that it happens to me all the time, but what’s important is the striving. What’s important is recognizing that being a Christian doesn’t mean committing to, or even allowing ourselves to be treated as, something mediocre. Sadly, we’ve failed pretty heartily in this area, and it’s going to take a while to recover from the 70s, Culture Wars, bizarre evangelical subcultures, and modern worship music, but it can certainly be done.

So my challenge to you is this: wherever you find yourself, whatever you find yourself doing, do it so amazingly well that people are blown away by your dedication. Don’t worry about sucess. Sucess and excellence are only tangentially related. Worry about being the best, but not from a sense of vanity. Worry about being the best because the Best has called you. Worry about excellence because you serve the Excellent One. Reflect your love for Christ in your dedication to the passions and gifts he has given to you. Go forth and be excellent, and maybe the world will stop laughing at our cultural efforts and again realize that we have something meaningful to communicate.

What do you think? Are you pursuing excellence in your chosen field? How can you help facilitate excellence among others? Am I completely missing the point here? Respond in the comments!

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