8 Reasons Excellence Must be the Standard for Churches

I know that the church is made up of redeemed sinners who are hardly perfect. All of us have room for improvement, and none of us always gets everything right. Nevertheless, our churches must set excellence as the standard in everything we do. Here’s why:

  1. We do church for God, not for us. Everything we do as a church must be done for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). To settle for anything less than excellence, then, is to ignore this requirement.
  2. No church defaults into excellence. Rather, we all default into the routine . . . into maintenance . . . into no longer seeing our needs for improvement. Unless we keep pushing for excellence, we settle for less than the best.
  3. We can do less than excellence in our own power. That’s a problem, actually. When we commit to do everything with excellence, though, we imperfect people need God’s help to reach that goal – and recognized dependence on Him is always good.
  4. Mediocrity is a poor witness. Whether we like it or not, the world is watching us. Guests who don’t always know church visit our churches. They don’t understand why we present something that is less than well done.
  5. Accepting less than excellence can be a spiritual copout. You’ve heard word like these: “Please pray for me. I didn’t have much time to prepare, so God will have to help me.” Sometimes emergencies do happen, but often these words are a spiritualized excuse for laziness or poor time management. 
  6. This commitment forces us to work on improvement. Too many churches have no strategy to regularly assess and improve what they’re doing. A commitment to excellence demands a change in that process.
  7. Excellence demands training. It’s tough to reach excellence if you don’t know how to do what you’re tasked to do. That’s one reason why we must train and equip believers (not to mention Ephesians 4:11-13 . . .).
  8. We’re equipping the next generations of church leaders. If we settle for mediocrity on our watch, we’re setting up the church to make the same mistake for decades to come.

What reasons would you add to this list? 


  • Andrew Watkins says:

    I would add that it’s a good witness. Why would unbelievers think church is worth their time if our slopping things together displays that we don’t really think it’s worth our time?

  • pastorstevebedard says:

    In general I agree with you. My concern is about how we include people with disabilities into our worship services? How does that fit within the excellence paradigm?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Excellence means we all do our absolute best, and we find the best way to help all of our folks use their giftedness.

    • Mark says:

      When it is time for the prayers of the people, the person in the wheelchair has a microphone held for her and says them from the front of the church instead of the lectern. When the Vicar (of Baghdad) preached who has MS and has his church firebombed during mass on more than one occasion, he gets the mic turned up so he can be heard and walks slowly going up the aisle and to the pulpit. They are all God’s creation.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, Mark.

  • Michelle says:

    In serving, we are showing gratitude to God and appreciation for the gifts that He has blessed us with. When we don’t give Him our best efforts, we won’t grow into the levels of ability that only He has set the parameters on. The Lord is the only one worthy of our praise- and He provides the individualized tools to to do just that!

  • Lon Dean says:

    Great article. I once heard that ‘excellence is doing the best with what you HAVE.’ I would add sometimes small churches with small budgets think excellence is out of reach but clean, on-time, practicing, planning etc. cost nothing.

  • Seth says:

    How do you determine whether a church is “done” excellently? This is important to discuss or excellence can become an end in itself that is unattainable.

    I would contend that church is not something we “do”(or at least that this wording can be detrimental to church health). This article could easily seem like a jump past what a church “is” to what a church does rather quickly. If excellence is our standard we will not be able to start new churches, for excellent ministries and gatherings create a model and standard that we assume is necessary for doing church and then we need a ton of money and skills and time to reproduce this model. We will continue investing our funds in our buildings, programs, media, and sound equipment with a “come and see” approach to church growth. Rather if we have a go and tell approach we will mobilize the laity to serve without having it all together and having all of the skills. Action and service does not need to have the standard of excellence or we will never feel adequate to do anything. We limit people from using their gifts and reproducing the essence of church when we think excellence is the standard. How can we reproduce these kinds of church expressions in other places, cultures, and among unreached peoples? Many of whom have nothing. Our standards of excellence basically equal more money invested unto temporary things (buildings, landscaping, instruments, lighting, remodelled sound systems keeping up withvthe latest technology to keep the show cutting edge, rather than in eternal things like people. The more excellence is demanded when the chyrch gathers, the more we will enciurage pew sitting as only a few will be qualified to serve.

    I think being a biblical church in essence is what we should focus on and doing that to the glory of God, which probably means more simplicity and authenticity, participatory gatherings as prescribed in 1 Cor 14:26, where every member comes to edify the group rather than only the highly polished professionals with excellence (which is how we typically define “doing church” excellently).

    Let’s go to underground churches and the persecuted church and ask them hiw they define excellence in “doing” church. We would likely judge them? Do we want them to become like us?

    I like the heart of doing things to the glory of God, but we have to discuss this concept of “excellence”. It is too easily reorient ed in a consumeristic, materialistic society.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Seth. We don’t differ here. I’m not arguing for a particular kind of excellence, and I’m certainly not arguing that everyone must be like a Western church. My experience with churches in difficult, dangerous settings is that they are often even more committed to this level because they know they do what they do for the glory of God. 

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