This is an expanded version of short article that first appeared in our e-mail newsletter in May, 2007
All but one of the banks in the small town we live in are located in the downtown core, so driving to the bank requires me to trek there, which usually involves having eyes on the road, ears listening to radio and thoughts entering and exiting my head at lightning speed. I am focused on everything vital, but anything not central to my agenda is usually not registering.
The route takes me by the town’s Roman Catholic Church. At the entrance to the church they had hung a large banner celebrating their 125th anniversary, but my tired mind didn’t process the details correctly and instead out of the corner of my eye morphed the sign into the type of banner that manufacturing plants hangs outside to announce that they have met the criteria for the International Standards Organization. (I tried really hard to find a picture at this point.) As far as I was concerned, the banner said, “I.S.O. 9001 Certified;” until I did a double-take and more carefully noted the church’s anniversary.
That got me wondering though what it would be like if our churches had to meet something like I.S.O. standards.What if there was an independent body out their testing to see if we’re meeting our objectives, conveying our message accurately, using only best materials, best practices, best processes; getting our “product” to the community efficiently, etc.? Like a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” on a product, or a AAA (American Automobile Association) Approval Rating on a motel. Would your church be able to meet a world standard of performance?
And what if some churches passed the test and got to hang that all important banner… who would be impressed? Would neighbours who have passed that church by for 20 years or more suddenly say, “Well, we really should go and visit sometime… after all they are I.S.O. certified”? What would be the impact on people in other churches that hadn’t reached the gold standard?
(One pastor recently shared with me that in all the research that’s been done and all the articles and reports that have been written about church growth, church planting and church marketing, there is very little concern about two issues that are central to the experience of visitors: The quality of the chairs and the room temperature of the auditorium. Guess we’re all too spiritual to worry about such things. Too trivial? Maybe you should write that book.)
Nevertheless, I believe that God calls his Church to excellence. That includes excellence of the heart. Excellence in motivation. Excellence in attitude. But it also includes excellence in worship. Excellence in preaching. Excellence in Christian Education. Do everything as unto the Lord. We should aim for nothing but the best, regardless of whether or not we are a church of 200 or 600 or 1,400, or a church of “two or three gathered together.”