19 October, 2009

Pursuing Excellence

Are you pursuing excellence? In Philippians 3:14, Paul wrote; "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God."

God has really been dealing with me about the need to do things to my best, or with excellence, rather than just getting by. I don't know if every pastor gets this way, but I have come to realize that in some areas of ministry, I have fallen into the trap of doing things "good enough" to pass the test, but not really up to my full potential. That's not an easy thing to admit for me, and I'm willing to bet that most others would have a hard time admitting it as well. But think about it; how many of us have jobs that have standards (or goals or quotas) that we are required to meet, and we make sure to meet that standard, but we usually don't really strive for doing our very best. The fact is, that you're not making the most of your potential when the standards set for you by others are higher than the ones you set for yourself. Former U.S. Senator and basketball star Bill Bradley tells the story of attending a summer basketball camp when he was fifteen. While there, basketball star 'Easy' Ed Macauley told him, "If you're not working at your game to the utmost of your ability, there'll be someone out there with equal ability who will be working to the utmost of his ability, and one day when you play each other he'll have the advantage."
Clearly, if we will be honest, we have all had times where we have given in to tendency to "coast" and let do enough to get by, rather than doing our very best. The Lord has been dealing with me to "pursue excellence" in my life. It is not good enough to do just enough to give the appearance that I am a good pastor, a good husband or father. I need to give it my best in all these areas. Ironically, I'm very picky when it comes to excellence in my photography. I won't release photos until I am absolutley convinced that they have been edited and refined completely. In fact, I have some pictures that I have been working on for almost 6 months, because before I put my name on them and release them, I want people to say, "That Dan Ash Photographer is great!" I want to re-order my life so that they say that about me as pastor, husband, father, friend... "That Darrell gives it his all."

We have to guard ourselves so that we do not allow our critics nor our competitors to determine the standards that we set for ourselves. Again, in my photograhy, I don't want to be comparable to someone else, I want to work to become better than them. It's not really about being better than them, it is really about being the best that I can be. That's what matters. It really is the same in my role as a Pastor. It is not about "competing" with other pastors, it is about becoming the best pastor that I can possibly be. Psychology professor Jon Johnston points out the difference between mere success and excellence: "Success bases our worth on a comparison with others, excellence measures us against our own potential. Success grants its rewards to the few but is the dream of the multitudes. Excellence is available to all living beings, but is accepted only by the few."

The truth is that all of us should pursue excellence, but especially, we as Christians should. The question is, how are we doing? When others look at us, they should see the best worker, the best at what ever we do. We are admonished to do all that we do as unto the Lord. I wonder, when others look at our lives, how do they really see us? Personally, I've been questioning, am I known for lukewarm, low-impact living, or can I truly say like Paul, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God?'" How about you today... Are you striving for excellence?

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