1 Corinthians 12:31
Use your ambition to try to get greater gifts. And I’m going to show you an even better way.
If you were to ask Telley if she knew me, she would properly say, “No.” But that’s OK- I know her. I met her a year or so ago. She was a presenter at a workshop I attended at the 2012 School of Congregational Development in St. Louis. She told her “God Story” about how she and her church have grown. Part of the key reasoning for that was that they determined whatever they would do would be filtered through an emphasis on excellence. Church growth? Excellence? She had my eye and ear, as well as my mind and my heart, all in full attention.
For her and the congregation she serves, excellence is not just about proficiencies in programs, rewarding demographics or even leaders who never make mistakes. And that’s not to say these are not important. But more importantly, I heard her say that their definition of excellence originated in 1 Corinthians 12:31, and would be expounded by the verses that follow in 1 Corinthians 13. What I heard from her was that excellence means love…agape style…the filter through which all that her church does must flow. Love itself will be conveyed excellently.
As United Methodists, we do a lot of good mission work with well constructed frameworks, measurement tools for accountability, and well trained leaders. And yes, we can call that excellence. But sometimes doing things the “more excellent way” means that what we do is under the motivation, passion, and unction of love…agape style. If we are going to feed the hungry, it’s not just about putting food in their mouths, but doing something about why they are hungry in the first place. The same can be said for those who are cold, or naked or imprisoned as well, and how we love them as we learn their names and befriend them.
Witnesses all, as we may be, finding ourselves sent into our mission fields, whatever those may be, empowered with the Word and undergirded by unceasing prayer, how can we not do all that we have the power to do as we lift up Jesus Christ as Lord and do it with excellence and to do it excellently? When we find ourselves steeped in excellence, will it not yield fruit for the sake of the Kingdom?
Even as we find ourselves immersed in Annual Conference sessions and meetings this year, I am going to be praying that all things we do and become may be soaked with the excellence of which our sister, Telley, and our Brother Paul speak, especially noted in the verses above. We might ask ourselves, “how shall you and I, do what we do, in a more excellent way?”
Merciful Lord our God, as you came to us in Jesus, in excellence, doing all things well, may we imitate your example so that all that we think, say, and do will be done by that standard of excellence that you have shown in your life, death and resurrection. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
The Rev. J. Steven Cavitt
Dyersburg District Superintendent, Memphis Conference