Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Why Quality is Essential

Its a bit of a stretch to say we want to 'restore the arts to the church' while still accepting mediocrity in virtually every area of church life. Art is only art when it is of a higher quality than the semi-skilled or ungifted can create. Michelangelo wasn't selected to work on the chapel ceiling simply because he could paint... he was recognized by the church as the best in the world.

It is not a bad idea to want to draw out giftedness in people. It is important to offer a place for those with gifts to discover them, practice them and use them. But that doesn't mean we put on display anything other than our best. Demonstrations of mediocrity are not accepted very many places in our culture. I've been to secular concerts where the warm-up band was booed off the stage because they were so poor... I've watched ball players give a half-hearted performance and get yanked from a game. Even in your workplace poor quality is not accepted for too long... and even where it exists it is talked about behind backs and around water coolers... it is readily acknowledged as the company 'joke'.

Our culture is saturated in quality... especially when it comes to entertainment, music, movies, dramas and most other venues (Karaoke clubs notwithstanding). What this does is lower the public's tolerance for poor quality. When someone walks into your church and is subjected to a boring song set with unprepared musicians and passionless singers, or a drama team that stumbles and stutters through unintelligible lines the disparity between the church and the world seems ridiculously large. Even the scummiest of clubs and bars has music that is better in quality than most churches dare to produce.

How many of you have an XBox or a GameCube or one of the latest game machines? Remember when you only had an Atari? or a Nintendo? Do you want to go back to that? Of course not... you have been saturated in a different quality and the old games look ridiculous. That's where the world is when it comes into many churches... is appears just as ridiculous. The quality disparity screams louder than our message.

It's not just Non-Christians who are influenced by this quality disparity ... your believers are, also. They may get used to the discrepancy and not vocalize the shortfall but it does influence them. Ever wonder why your most faithful members fail to invite their friends to church? I believe that the quality disparity is a major reason even if it's not a conscious reason.

I also hold the opinion that we create an entire culture that is not trained to expect success... that doesn't envision greatness. They are content with average. Have you heard people say things like "that Christian band is as good as any secular group"? Why should that be a surprise? Why would that be worthy of comment? Only because we expect as Christians a lower standard... we accept it as part of the Christian culture.

I believe it is possible to embrace quality across the board within the church. We must provide training grounds for people to practice and test their giftings... but we must also provide 'proving grounds' before they are put on display. A constant vision of quality will motivate the ones in training to not become comfortable with 'acceptable' but strive for 'excellent'.

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