The Problem with the Pursuit of Excellence

I recently read an article that made a point that I have been thinking about. Tony Morgan shares

It’s possible to obsess about excellence–which is more about the execution–and completely ignore the outcomes. Churches, in particular, need to be more outcomes-minded. We need to make sure what we’re doing is actually having impact and getting results.

Excellence sounds like a great ideal for the church. We should give our best and do our best for God. But we must be careful. When excellence becomes our goal, we lose focus, we damage relationships, and we lose opportunities to minister to others.

In the rise of the seeker-focused and seeker-sensitive church of the last few decades, the concept of excellence found its way into the mission of many churches.  But I have a problem with the pursuit of excellence. A natural by-product of excellence is discontent. How good is good enough? If we are not careful, we feel that we need to do a little better; just a little more, and then it will be excellent. The pursuit of excellence can easily lead to a perfectionist attitude where everything is criticized and deconstructed. When that happens, the church loses focus.

The pursuit of excellence can rob a ministry of it’s joy. The goal of worship is not excellence, IT IS WORSHIP!! The goal of ministry is not excellence, IT IS MINISTRY!!

Let me give you a real-life example. I read another blog post that shared the opinion that a church should never video their service or share their videos online unless they have a multi-camera setup with high-end equipment. The article relegated video ministry to only megachurches with large budgets, with the vast majority of churches unable to reach the acceptable level of excellence. Here is the problem. Context matters! What is excellent in one church is far from excellent in another. Again, how good is good enough? If you are able to use video and minister to people, then go for it! Don’t compare yourself to other churches. Use what works in your context to make a difference for Christ.

Here is another example from the worship world. I have seen the pursuit of excellence damage relationships. Almost everyone has a story of a worship leader or band member who is critical of others. Again, when excellence is the goal, every worship service becomes a performance where the goal is to not mess up. That is not worship! Worship is about laying down our lives before God, and honoring God for who He is and what He has done. We do need to be prepared, but I have seen God move in incredible ways when we take the focus off of our performance and put the focus on the greatness of God.

If you make a mistake, it’s okay. If you don’t have moving lights and fog machines, you can still worship. If your guitar player oversleeps, you can still have a powerful time of worship. If you have an old video camera, use it! Why? Because it’s not about us, it’s about God. We need to stop comparing ourselves to the church down the street, so that we can become the church that God has created us to be.


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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2 Responses

  1. Karl Vaters says:

    What a great perspective, Mike! Thanks for this.

    • Mike says:

      Karl, I just listened to Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast with you. It was so encouraging to me. I pastor in a small rural town, and it is so hard to find resources that are geared toward “smaller” churches. We are a church that fluctuates between 300-400 people in a town of 7000, and yet, I still feel like most books and conferences simply aren’t applicable to our setting. I plan on reading The Grasshopper Myth in the next few weeks. I’m looking forward to it! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

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