Last week was the first Worship Collective of the year. The Worship Collective is a gathering with the purpose of encouraging and equipping the church for ministry. God has called us to do this! (1 Thessalonians 2:9-12) My goal in writing this blog is that by sharing what God is teaching me, you may be uplifted and encouraged in the work of the Lord.
Pastor of worship, Aaron Ivey spoke on excellence and brought much clarity to how the bible views excellence and how our culture and our world view excellence in a much different way. God put in us an innate desire to create things and excel at what we do. All of us want to be great, to do great things, to be successful, and to rise to the top. Every voice in life screams: “be the best you can be”! “Rise to the top”!
During Aaron’s short teaching he referenced the definition of “excellence” as described in the American Heritage Dictionary where it says:
ex·cel·lence 1. The state, quality, or condition of excelling; superiority. 2. Something in which one excels. 3. Excellence Excellency.
According to this, the definition involves ‘superiority’. The aim is superiority, achievement and competition. We are taught that being excellent is being better than someone else in skill, strength, work, or thought.
Worldly excellence always ends with winning.
So what does scripture say? In 2 Corinthians Paul lays it out clearly:
“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.” 2 Corinthians 8:7
Scripture teaches us that excellence is always combined with character and skill. God calls us to “do all to the glory of God”. We cannot work to the glory of God if we don’t put forth our whole effort. In the same way, these actions cannot glorify a holy God if our character (our heart) is not seeking the glory of God. Our character absolutely cannot grow if our goal is rooted in self-empowerment. If we rise to the top, if we acquire all success and riches, what then? Excellence for the sake of excellence is a poor goal in the end. What blows my mind is that Paul actually teaches that we should grow in love and character so that we may then be excellent for Christ. Paul says it even better in Philippians:
"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9-10
We strive for excellence in an ongoing journey involving the transformation of our character. On of the things that Aaron Ivey said that has stuck with me is how the development of skill and character should be on-going. The development of character and skill are not things that occur overnight, and they shouldn’t be.
"One of the worst things that can happen as an artist is arriving. There occurs a loss of passion and humility" – Aaron Ivey
To close I’d like to leave you with a few reminders that Aaron taught us last Thursday which have been extremely challenging and life-giving to me personally.
- Don't focus on the next big thing or the last big thing, but grow in skill and character today!
- Don't confuse visibility with significance, they are rarely the same.
- Don't forget that you don't labor for yourselves, but for a greater purpose.
- Our ongoing pursuit of Jesus fuels the fire and keeps us vibrant
As Christ followers it is helpful to remember these things. The church should constantly be asking itself, are we marked by our love and faithfulness, and togetherness as the church in Acts 2 was? The world says what matters is being superior to others, but the gospel’s picture of excellence is counter-cultural! Scripture calls us to be excellent in both character and skill because are hope is not in what we can build or achieve here on earth but in eternal life with Christ. Our refinement is on going. God-glorifying excellence should produce on going passion, creativity and character.
"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58
Thursday's Worship Collective teaching can be watched below.