THAT’S EXCELLENT!

IMG_bankruptcyI have discovered that excellence isn’t always expensive, even though it costs more than ‘acceptable‘. I first heard this when I was a teenager. A former bankrupt businessman came to our church in Geelong and shared his story of how his former business partner had cleaned him out and left him with a mountain a debts resulting in him being declared bankrupt. He went through a period of confusion as to why God would have let this happen to him. He had to surrender his home, his cars, his boat and his self-respect. Under the bankruptcy laws, he was only allowed to have a car worth no more than a few thousand dollars. In the depth of the darkness of his despair he came to a major realisation which ended up changing his fortunes and dramatically altering the course of his life.

Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Daniel 6:3

Eventually this bankrupt businessman would pay off all of his creditors and then go on to become a millionaire once again. But this might never have happened if he hadn’t realised two important things from Scripture. The first of these realisations was a huge challenge for him. He saw in Scripture that God called for His people to be thankful in all circumstances. Even though he had lost his house, cars, boat, and business – and now lived in a rented house – and was only allowed to drive a meagre car, he realised that he lacked gratitude to God for these things. Although he initially struggled with it, he began to express his thanks to God for what he had and stopped pining over what he didn’t have. 

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
Psalm 97:12

Unemployed, broke, and feeling sorry for himself, he sunk to an all-time low and struggled with the Holy Spirit’s conviction to be thankful. But at least he struggled. One of the things that he had learned from business is that difference between those who are successful and those who are not is often a very fine line. That fine line is not always a difference of the quality of the product or service being offered – as competitors can be selling exactly the same product or service – and yet one of them achieves remarkable success while the others don’t. The difference wasn’t the ‘what’ but rather the ‘how’. 

excellentHow involves the ‘spirit’ in which something is done. How do we interact with the customer? How do we go beyond expectations? How timely do we deliver to our customers? How well do we present ourselves when dealing with the customer? How well do we train our staff? The answers to these how questions is determined by how seriously a business is concerned with excellence. What this former bankrupt businessman realised was that if he was going to start over he needed the kind of attitude – spirit – which those few highly successful businesses have. He determined to combine his revelation about being thankful with a determination to do everything he could with excellence.

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
First Thessalonians 5:18

This new resolve began Saturday. He went to his newly acquired, twenty year-old car and washed it, vacuumed it, and gave it a polish. It might not be much, but he was determined to show God that he was thankful for it. He also wanted the spirit of excellence to begin to permeate every area of his life – including his car, and the place where he now lived. After detailing his car, he mowed his lawns and weeded his front yard. He wanted to be faithful “in the little things” (Matthew 25:21) so that the LORD could entrust him once more with more. He determined that even though he was broke he didn’t have to act like it  –  or look like it! He ironed his shirts, polished his shoes, pressed his suit. He took steps to improve his physical condition. He ate healthy rather than conveniently. He took regular walks and accepted any invitations to try a new sport. 

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Ecclesiastes 9:10

God opened a marvellous opportunity for him in sales. This would soon lead to him being able to revoke his bankruptcy and satisfy all his creditors with 100% in the dollar of what was owed. As God prospered him, he maintained his thankfulness and the spirit of excellence in all he did. He became very concerned about his fellow believers and their churches not enjoying this same opportunity to be thankful with a spirit of excellence. This is why he was in Geelong that Sunday many years ago. He was sharing how he was now trying to help churches adopt a spirit of excellence in all they did – which included their devotion to Christ and their generosity toward Kingdom endeavours. As I recall, his visit to our church in Geelong had a profound effect upon many people and raised the level of giving, volunteering, and devotion to Christian disciplines quite dramatically. 

AS INDIVIDUALS:

ASPECT ACCEPTABLE EXCELLENT
“Customer” Service Give the customer what they want Give the customer some extra value to what they expected
Punctuality Turn up on time Turn up before the start time and offer to help
Grooming Look decent Look smart and presentable
 Social interaction  Be polite to everyone you interact with Be considerate (responsive listening) and attentive with those you interact with

 

AS A CHURCH:

ASPECT ACCEPTABLE EXCELLENT
Ushering Watch people find a seat, distribute the Communion elements, help take up the Offering Greet people as they come past your station, assist newcomers orientate to the where-abouts of the amenities, connect parents to the Kidz Church registry table, and offer to get them a tea/coffee/other at the close of the service; when it comes to the Offering – put one in.
KiDZ Church Workers Prepare your Kidz Church lesson on the morning you’re rostered on; deliver your lesson. Have your lesson and its material prepared days before (including any photocopying required) and add supplementary thoughtful comments to it; during the combined KiDZ church component set the example to the children by being attentive to the KiDZ Church Leader (don’t talk to other leaders while the KCL is addressing the children; when the KCL leads a song, sing it with passion to set an example to the children; when delivering your lesson to your group of children – manage the group, not the individuals; don’t have long pauses or gaps – keep the pace going; deliver your lesson with passion and expression; engage with their parents to let them know what you’ve done and give them an incentive for the parents to bring them back next week.
Pulpit Team Fulfil your rostered duty within the allocated time for it Prayerfully prepare a thoughtful presentation; practice it; have any supporting media arranged before Sunday; dress appropriately which shows effort; use the English Standard Version of the Bible; know how you’re going to conclude; deliver it with light and shade / appropriate gusto / from your heart as well as your notes.
 Worship Team Play your instrument; be at the pre-service rehearsal; have your music ready; attend practice nights Worship with your instrument; know the music and words to the songs without constantly looking at your music; smile! ; look at those you’re leading ; be attentive to the worship leader – especially between the songs when they addressing the church; dress as if you think this is a Royal Command Performance!

 

For us as a church to be both thankful and striving for excellence need not cost you. It starts with what you already have – being thankful for it, and treating it with excellence. It means that we look to go the extra-mile, serve one another with joy and cross that fine boundary-line from acceptable into the unexpected excellent. It’s not a great chasm between acceptable and excellent – it’s a fine line

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, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

 

Ps. Andrew