Have you ever walked into a specialty store or restaurant and been amazed at the intentionality that went into every aspect of the experience? It wasn’t just a building with four walls. There were passionate people doing what they loved with excellence. For me, that place is a restaurant that my wife and I love to go to in Orlando, FL called "Prato." From the hostesses’ greeting, the chef’s plating, specialty lighting, and staff’s uniform—everything about it is encapsulating. From the first bite to the last, I feel important and valued. Every time I walk way from that experience wanting to replicate it in my daily life. I believe Jesus was exactly like that. He made people feel valued, he was intentional, he gave all of Himself to God and His calling. So, why shouldn’t church replicate that very thing?
The other day I was talking to my buddy, Ryan, about the city of Miami—our city. We’re both excited to see how it’s growing beyond a tourist’s vacation attraction to a place where young entrepreneurs are opening businesses that are authentic and excellent—the kind that make you feel valued and important. Businesses that truly give you something, instead of just take. Ryan and I were sharing our mutual experiences with business owners who trick their consumers on the outside to get them inside, and then offer a “lifeless” experience or product. When they see a decline in sales and no returning customers, they turn to a thriving business (one like Ryan’s specialty coffee shop, Panther) and ask, “How are you so successful? How can we replicate this?” Oftentimes they assume its just some tricky marketing strategy or the location of the business. They say everything but what it actually is—hard work and authenticity.
The funny thing is you can’t replicate the authenticity someone else has. Those business owners just completely miss the mark and will continually be chasing that “success” for the rest of their lives. That brings me back to Jesus Christ and this thing we get to be apart of every weekend—church.
I’ve been working at churches off and on over the last seven years. While I’m still very young in ministry, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and experience a lot. One of the biggest discussions in ministry is how to share the gospel of Christ to the world through the institution of Sunday church. I think one of the largest roadblocks we encounter in trying to do this is comparison (or keeping up with the Joneses). Now, I’m a firm believer we need to be aware of culture and the world around us so we are able to share our faith and the truth of God best. But the battle in our minds and hearts with comparison can leave us totally missing the mark for our goal just like those “ get rich” business owners. So, with that being said I believe that authenticity and excellence should be the foundation of everything we do.
Through my experience, I’ve seen churches lean heavily on one side or the other when it comes to excellence or authenticity. It’s almost like we think they can’t coincide together. I’ve been at places where it’s so overly structured. They’re trying to hit the mark of churches they see on YouTube, but they lost themselves in the process and the ability to connect with the people in the congregation. They strive so hard to replicate, and don’t leave any room for their own identity and creativity. The leadership isn’t seeking after what God wants to do in them, the church, or the community; they just want to find a way to be heard by more people. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve encountered places where they were scared of structure, as if God would be displeased if they planned out a service a few months in advance. But without that structure people became frustrated at the lack of clear communication regarding the church’s mission and vision for the weekend.
Excellence and authenticity must coincide. There must be structure to free us up for authentic experiences. And we must be authentic in how we communicate the gospel through Sunday church or we will find ourselves selling lifeless product, instead of sharing the greatest gift of life there is.
As Christians, we should be able to be uniquely ourselves and pursue our passions to our utmost ability. In Christ, we are able to give our all for others and for our calling knowing that should we “fail” our acceptance is unchanging. And doing everything ultimately unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23) instead of for worldly success sets the bar much higher than anything else will. A mindset shift like this makes provision for authenticity and challenges us toward excellence. And these principles definitely apply to the way we do church!
We can be people that give our all for the kingdom of God. We can be people that communicate clearly, effectively and passionately the message of true hope, true love and grace through Jesus Christ not only on Sunday, but also in our everyday lives. I pray this inspires you, whatever you do, to create and share something amazing in Christ.