Yes, you read that title correctly. No, I’m not losing it.
In a recent conversation an old friend told me, “I left my small church because the worship, programs and preaching weren’t always great. But I came back to my small church because the worship, programs and preaching in the megachurch were done so well that it made me passive. The big church didn’t need me. My small church does. And I need to be needed.”
Obviously, since I’m the “small church guy” it’s possible that my friend was feeding into my expectations, but there’s far more going on than just that.
It made me wonder, is it possible for a church to rely too heavily on technical excellence? Are millions of believers being lulled into passivity by the excellence of their church’s programs, without having my friend’s awareness of it?Is it possible for a church to rely too heavily on technical excellence? Are millions of believers being lulled into passivity by the excellence of their church’s programs? Click To Tweet
Sometimes we need to give God our second best.
Before I tell you what I mean by that, let me tell you what I don’t mean by it.
What I’m Not Saying
1. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give God our best, too
Giving God our second best means we should give him our all. That includes best, worst and everything in between.
2. I’m not saying excellence is wrong
Whatever we do – especially what we do for the cause of Christ – should be done with all the effort, passion and excellence we have. But sometimes what we have is more raw than polished.
Even when something is still in second-best stage (especially then), it needs to be surrendered to Jesus.
3. I’m not saying small churches are second best
My friend’s experience just happened to have a big church / small church dynamic to it. But that doesn’t mean a small church is a second-best experience.
As someone who serves a great small church, I know that to be true in a very personal and real way.
4. I’m not saying big churches are bad
The passivity my friend experienced in a big church happens in small churches too.
Whenever ministry is seen as something done by professionals, we create passive consumers, not passionate disciples.
What I Am Saying
We need to guard against the tendency to allow technical excellence to replace or stifle our innovative passion.
Sometimes “God deserves our best” is a cover for pride. God also wants and deserves our second best. And our worst. And everything in between. Those less-than-perfect moments are where the Holy Spirit often shines the brightest. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)Sometimes "God deserves our best" is a cover for pride. God also deserves our second best. And our worst. And everything in between. Those less-than-perfect moments are where the Holy Spirit often shines the brightest. Click To Tweet
It’s not that I can’t worship along with world-class musicians using high-quality video and lighting. I have.
But I’ve also grinned like a Cheshire Cat watching a nervous teenager trying to play guitar in front of the church for the first time. And I’ve been moved to tears of gratefulness as a stay-at-home mom overcame her stage fright to speak with a stuttering, trembling voice about how her church family prayed, worked and counseled her alcoholic husband back to sobriety and responsibility again.
Their lack of performance quality didn’t hinder their message. It made the moments a little more real.
Making Space For A Creative God
As I said at the start, I’m not against doing things with quality. Or good technique. Or technology. And I’m definitely not in favor of poor preaching, lazy worship or haphazard church administration.
But when we have an over-reliance on technical excellence, we can
- stifle innovation
- punish creative mistakes instead of rewarding them
- promote pride
- create a two-tiered system of haves and have-nots
- turn potential disciples into permanent audience members
One of the reasons I love small churches is that our needs are more apparent. An obvious gap in technical expertise can show me where I’m needed. I can help. I can make a real difference.
And I don’t need to feel embarrassed about messing up as I’m learning how to do it, because these people know me and love me. Not in spite of my imperfections. But because of them. Because I’m trying. And because we share our imperfections with each other.
Sometimes it’s the lack of technical excellence when we offer our second best that creates space for creativity, innovation and passion to grow. And for God to show up and do something that only he can do.
(Photo by Solomon Joy | @SolomonJoy)