In Pursuit of Excellence

Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter Article for February, 2013

Our Lutheran theology is grounded in the notion that Christ does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. As the founder of our movement within the Christian family (Martin Luther) understood, try as we might, we can never fully live up to the expectations God has for us. In fact, the harder we try, the farther we seem to fall short.

This has led us to a high appreciation for God’s grace, and a deep sense of peace, since our eternal wellbeing is based not on what we can accomplish, but on what God has already accomplished for us (a much more reliable source of peace!).

The unintended consequence of this notion is that there are times when Christians (and in particular, Lutheran Christians) tend to settle for mediocrity. After all, why try to excel, when in the end our efforts are not what matter?

Yet our Bible is filled with encouragement to do our very best. Jesus calls us to be willing to give our all — even our lives — in our efforts to follow him (Mark 8:34-38). The Apostle Paul challenges us to work at faithfulness like an athlete competes in a race (1st Corinthians 9:24-27). In terms of salvation, there is nothing we need to do (in fact, nothing we can do) because Christ has done it all. But in terms of faithfulness, our God calls us to give our very best to the work we do for the Kingdom. Our God calls us to excellence.

With that in mind, I want to keep my eye open for those who are pursuing excellence in their efforts to be faithful to Christ. Who is going to extraordinary lengths to share their faith with others? Who is proposing new ways to make our ministries the best they can possibly be?

Last December, I received a note from someone in Richmond, Virginia who regularly reads the devotional materials we send out from Saint Peter. He wrote, in part:

Pastor David, I just noticed the fine print on the side bar that offers directions to your church. I think your invitation should be more specific. Are you more likely to actually get together for lunch with someone if the invitation is "We should have lunch sometime" or "We should have lunch this Wednesday at 12:30?" How about THIS Sunday! …I look forward to seeing you again… Come to think of it, it won't be this Sunday, but maybe SOME Sunday we will come visit you! Best wishes and Merry Christmas to the mile high Risendals, Craig

A reader in Virginia pays close attention to our devotional messages, and notices that the welcome to worship we offer could be more specific, and possibly more effective. What do you notice about our life together that could be strengthened? What ideas do you have that move our efforts a step closer to excellence? What would you be willing to do in this coming year to help our congregation more faithfully pursue its mission? Our God calls us to excellence. Let’s all consider how we can work together to follow that call.

God’s peace (and excellence!) to you, Pastor Dave