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IN THE CARPENTER’S WORKSHOP: Mediocrity

“There are certain things in which mediocrity is intolerable: poetry, music, painting, public eloquence.  What torture it is to hear a frigid speech being pompously declaimed or second-rate verse spoken with all a bad poet’s bombast!” ~ Jean de la Bruyere

It is clear that God calls his people to excel in this marvelous journey of Christianity.  

Sadly, this is far from the case in many lives and churches.  Society berates us to dumb down the way we do things, and this can result in mediocre results at best.  Take public education, for example.

Friedrich Nietzsche writes, “In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.”  To deal with governmental and social mandates for the masses, people try to offer more in specialized schools.

The church is not bound by regulations, which limit.  We rise to what God inspires in us.  We offer faith, which lifts us much higher than humanity can.  We see miracles of which people outside of faith cannot conceive.  We give forgiveness to the one hundredth power.  We find love, which respects all, welcomes all who believe and sets a much higher standard than the world.

We also condemn sin.  We stand up for what is right and call people to holiness and deeper faith, which is based on the principles of God’s word.  

God continues to call us higher.  He made the earth and people, with all of their sophisticated systems, examples of how he wants us to live.  He inspires and equips us to lives of excellence and love.  “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:31

In this writing, I plan to use many synonyms of mediocre to illustrate how we must run from that term and its dangerous results with all our might.  It causes pain, loses battles and alienates people who desperately need the kind of faith God really wants us to have.

Inferior faith settles.  It cooperates with a secular society which has non-godly purposes.

In the bid to include all, we lose the very ingredient which lifts us past the ordinary.  

We settle for second-rate sermons and accept lazy and indifferent forms of worship because it is easy.  We expect nothing more, for we see it nowhere else in society.

Mediocre faith becomes undistinguished.  We fail to realize that Christianity offers the way to heaven.  We imagine that there indeed must be many ways to that end.  In fact, we profane the very reality of heaven itself by putting forth sometimes colorless and uninspired opinions based on nothing more than our own halfhearted efforts.

There is nothing commonplace about God’s call to live “a more excellent way.”  He teaches us to respect and love other people in infinite measure and to my knowledge has never done anything halfway.

If our faith is humdrum, it is not God who made it that way.  We have mixed it in with business, government, sports, entertainment, social work.  We add to this low priorities and somehow expect it still to retain its own individual flavor.

It’s like making a pitcher of lemonade.  Let’s say we combine one lemon, lime, a couple of red peppers, a dead fish, a clove of garlic, a little gasoline and a cup of salt, expecting it to taste like lemonade.  It’s just not gonna happen!

If we show up at church occasionally, never go to Sunday school, never let God make dramatic changes in us, rarely open our Bible, much less turn to God in prayer on a regular basis and expect to be happy and fulfilled in faith, we are going to be very disappointed.

To return to the teaching image, William Arthur Ward writes, “The mediocre teacher tells.  The good teacher explains.  The superior teacher demonstrates.  The great teacher inspires.”   Preachers, teachers, leaders and every Christian must aim for inspiration and excellence.  If we don’t, we shoot in the dark.

God inspires us to shine in every area.  A Christian who is indifferent to poverty and people in need only points to their own insignificance and lack of relevance to God’s kingdom.

One might argue that this quest for excellence would walk past the simplicity of simply serving our Lord, but God puts it plainly.  “Because you are lukewarm, neither hot or cold, I will spew you out of my mouth.”  Fair-to-middling faith is no real faith at all.

General George S. Patton hit the nail on the head when he said, “Anyone in any walk of life who is content with mediocrity is untrue to himself and to American tradition” and (I would add) his or her God.

We might also say that we cannot find excellence on our own.  We would be totally right.  Only God has the resources to banish mediocrity and define extraordinary faith in his people. 

God alone is the source of excellence for the Christian.  We can accomplish mediocrity well enough on our own.