Mediocrity in Ministry – How to Spot It?

Mediocrity in Ministry

Excellence in ministry is not a luxury, but a necessity.

We want to be supportive and understanding of those who are still learning. We know they’re not perfect and are still working on getting better. It’s like when someone is learning to ride a bike; they might fall off a few times, but they need encouragement and a helping hand to get back up and try again.

learning how to ride a bike

At the same time, we don’t want to say it’s okay for people to always do the bare minimum without trying to improve. That’s like someone knowing how to ride a bike but choosing to ride it super slow all the time and not caring if they could go faster or ride better.

The tricky part is knowing the difference between someone who is genuinely trying and learning and someone who is okay with just being okay and not getting any better. We want to cheer on and help the first group while encouraging the second group to see the value in putting more effort and heart into what they do.

But, it seems many people have difficulty telling the difference between supporting learners and letting mediocrity slide. It’s important to understand that growing and improving is good, and we should always aim for that, both in ourselves and in helping others.

lazy person on a couch

What is Mediocrity?

In science, when people talk about mediocrity, they often mean that nothing on Earth or about humans is super special compared to the rest of the universe.

This idea comes from thinking that our planet, solar system, and even galaxy are average, not the most important or unique.

When talking about how well people or groups do things, mediocrity in science means being average, not doing your best because of insufficient effort, not enough help, or not coming up with new ideas.

Scientists look at how to stop being mediocre by finding ways to motivate people, give them what they need, and help them grow.

Mediocrity in the Bible

The Bible doesn’t directly discuss being mediocre but teaches that being average or just doing enough isn’t good. It tells people to try their most complex and live in a way that shows God’s greatness. For example:

Colossians 3:23: This part says to do your work with all your heart as if you’re doing it for God, not just for people. It means to always do your best.

2 Timothy 2:15: This says to work hard so you can be proud of what you do in front of God, knowing you did your best to understand and follow what’s true.

These teachings suggest that just getting by or being average doesn’t fit with what the Bible says. It tells people to do better than that by living with excitement and honesty and doing the best they can, which shows God’s way and what He wants.

when do we draw the line of mediocrity in ministry

When and where do we draw the line on mediocrity?

When do we decide that something is not good enough, and how do we make that decision?

I always emphasize to the members of my community choir the importance of giving their all as they are part of a competitive team. It’s crucial for them to continually learn and develop their skills to enhance the overall quality of our group’s musical performance.

Yet, my perspective shifts when it comes to church choirs and vocal groups.

I make an exception in situations where it’s unrealistic to expect the same level of commitment and performance I demand from my competitive choir members.

In many parts of the Philippines, for instance, it’s common for smaller churches to not have the luxury of a musician who can provide training for the young people or the general church membership. As a result, the vocal style often found in these congregations may not be as refined or practiced as that of choirs in churches fortunate enough to have such resources.

In these instances, it’s unfair and unrealistic to hold them to the same high standards expected of professionally trained singers. Their perceived lack of polish isn’t a sign of mediocrity but a reflection of their limited access to training and resources needed to develop their musical talents further.

Conversely, when we consider a television network like Hope Channel, which has the resources necessary to scout for talent and produce high-quality music, the expectations naturally rise.

Given their access to better resources, we anticipate a higher level of performance from them. This includes having more skilled singers and musicians who excel in their craft. For a major media production, it would be noticeably out of place to feature a performer struggling to stay on pitch.

The essence here is not to hastily judge or quantify people’s shortcomings. We must recognize that those who have been blessed with more resources have a greater responsibility to achieve and contribute more. This understanding helps us set fair expectations and encourage everyone to reach their full potential, regardless of their starting point.

God knows my heart

The “God Knows My Heart” argument (excuse)

After talking about when we should expect more from people and how to spot when things are just okay, let’s look at a common reason people give when things don’t go well in church work: “God knows my heart, and He knows I tried my best.”

I’m not saying this reason is always wrong. Most of the time, it’s true because we can’t really know how hard someone else is trying.

But, if we’re talking about situations like the one I mentioned before, where people have lots of help and chances to get better, but their work is still not great, we have to ask: “Is God okay with just okay work because someone says they tried their best?”

What does the Bible say about giving your best to God?

Back in the old days, when people followed God’s instructions in the Bible (like in Leviticus 22:19-20), they were told to offer lambs without any marks or blemishes to God. This meant they had to choose the very best lamb they had, not just any lamb.

Nowadays, we don’t offer lambs or animals to God because Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate offering that ended that practice. But we still offer things to God in different ways – through our songs, sermons, and all kinds of activities we do in church.

So, thinking about it, shouldn’t we also give our very best in these modern offerings to God? By “best,” I’m talking about doing the best we can with the talents and abilities God has given each of us.

Giving less than we’re capable of, especially when we’ve been blessed with a lot, is not really showing respect to God. There’s a part in the Bible, Malachi 1:8, that says offering something that’s not your best is wrong. If God didn’t like it when people offered animals that weren’t perfect, it’s easy to see that He wouldn’t be pleased if we didn’t give our best in everything we do today, either.

Here are bible verse that tells us to give excellent service to God:

  1. Psalm 33:3 – “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

  2. Colossians 3:23-24 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

  3. Exodus 35:10 – “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded:”

  4. 1 Chronicles 15:22 – “Chenaniah, leader of the Levites in music, should direct the music, for he understood it.

  5. 2 Chronicles 2:7 – “Send me now, therefore, a man cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men that are with me in Judah and in Jerusalem, whom David my father did provide.”

  6. 1 Peter 4:10-11 – “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

  7. Psalm 78:72 – “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.”

  8. Exodus 31:3-5 – “And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.”

In the Devotional called “Reflecting Christ,” Ellen White discusses the importance of continuous improvement in the Christian life. She suggests that it should be our life’s work to strive for conformity to the will of God, promoting the happiness of our fellow beings and aiding them in securing eternal life.

Even God Himself Called His Creation “Good.”

In the beginning pages of the Bible, specifically in Genesis, we read about how God created everything around us. Every time God made something, He looked at it and said it was “good.” But here, “good” doesn’t just mean okay or satisfactory; it means something far more wonderful and beautiful than we can imagine.

Let’s think for a moment. What if God had decided to approach creating the world with a mindset of, “I’m not really in the mood today, so I’ll just do the least amount possible”? It’s almost funny to think about because it’s so far from who God is. We are so lucky and blessed that our God is nothing like that. He did everything with care and love and to the highest standard. His creation is genuinely incredible and deserves all our praise.

Given this, how can we think it’s alright for us to do less than our best when we can contribute more, especially in our roles within the church or ministry? If there are ways we can make things better or areas where our effort can make a significant difference, we should be eager to do so.

God’s example of excellence in creation is a powerful reminder for us. It shows us that doing things half-heartedly, especially when we can do so much more, is not the path we should choose. If God, in all His might and glory, didn’t hold back in His work, we should strive to give our best in all we do, honoring Him through our efforts and dedication.

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