There’s a lot of talk in the church world about doing everything with excellence. That’s important. Many leaders have focused on it because for many years it was totally neglected in the church (still is in some places). It just didn’t matter. While culture improved how it communicated, the church stayed stuck in the same old trends.
But something’s changing, at least in me and in the churched and unchurched folks I know. More than an amazing video and a band worthy of opening for U2, I want to see people who are real – people just being people, without polish, taking risks in the world around them. Excellence is important, but being authentic matters a whole lot more.
It’s like visiting a friend’s home verses visiting a five-star restaurant. Both have elements of excellence and authenticity – but their focuses are different. When we pursue the business metaphor, we begin to pursue “cool.” We begin to cater to people’s consumeristic needs. We begin to present a vision of church that leads to misconceptions over what God’s all about. When the pursuit of excellence becomes our goal, other things quickly become secondary priorities. Focusing intensely on the “guest’s” experience makes it a show, and when people attend a show long enough, it becomes an event to consume. Should we think about outsiders during our meeting times? Absolutely. But how we focus should also indicate our values. Hospitality matters a lot. A concierge service matters less.
We should never do things poorly because of a lack of effort. But honestly, I believe imperfect and real is much more attractive than polished and empty in today’s world. Boomers may still want a pretty show – but anyone younger than that will probably enjoy it for a moment then move on. I don’t want a show, I want a purpose. If it’s packaged nicely, that’s even better (and probably expected). But if you’re trying to win on the entertainment side, Hollywood will beat you every single time.
So here’s the deal. If you’re leading a church service, make sure it flows well, make sure your singers are on pitch. But don’t let glitz and glamour consume you. Instead, get facedown before God and see where he’s leading his church. Talk about the challenges of Christianity. Talk about the mission the church has been given in the community.
If you’re in a small group, make sure you welcome new people with genuine interest. Be a good host. But don’t let having a perfectly clean house or a perfect discussion time consume you. Just be the church. Enjoy the time together. Seek how God wants to grow you, individually and as a group. Seek how God wants to use you in the world, individually and as a group.
Which would you rather be involved with? A beautiful weekly show with all the latest gadgets? Or a vibrant movement that’s doing something – even though it may have a few posterboards with scribbled signage?