By George Bullard
Surely you have heard the expression throughout your life that something is “good enough for government work.” Or, you have heard its cousin, “close enough for government work.” When the typical person hears these phrases they think about something of mediocre quality.
Whether or not the origin of this phrase is about mediocrity or excellence, the idea of mediocrity is so much stronger than the idea of excellence that it is not even worth making the case that this may not be what the phrase has always meant. People will not believe you when you say that at one time it talked about excellence and rigorous standards that had to be met.
When people think about congregational vision do they think about mediocrity or excellence? Because becoming captivated by God’s vision is difficult, too often people work on it for a while and then say something like, “that is good enough for church work.” In doing so they define congregational vision as sufficiently unimportant that it is fine to be mediocre.
Here are six vision insights that focus on congregation vision that is only good enough. The first 48 insights about congregational vision are contained in the posts found here.
Vision Insight 49: When it comes to vision, good enough is never good enough, adequate is never acceptable and mediocrity is never excellence.
During the 1980s I worked at the national missions agency of a denomination. We worked very hard at fulfilling the mission and vision embodied in the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment. We were deeply passionate about it. We always sought to do everything with excellence.
After four years I moved to a state level missional role that presented many challenges. The shock in moving from the national role to a state level role was to discover the measuring rod of excellence was extremely different. What we would have considered mediocre at the national agency was seen as excellence in this state.
That gap in an understanding of excellence made it very difficult to engage in leading-edge missional efforts.
Vision Insight 50: When vision is of a mediocre, business-as-usual future, then you get a mediocre, business-as-usual future.
In my state level missional engagement role when I pushed for excellence, I experienced resistance in many places. The most disappointing was from other staff who did not want to work hard enough and smart enough to achieve true excellence. My staff team was criticized internally for our hard work and excellence.
The criticism was so strong that with the permission of the CEO of the regional denominational organization some of the work of my team went underground so we could continue achieving excellence and making Kingdom progress, but it would not be as obvious to other staff.
Vision Insight 51: When vision is of a mediocre, business-as-usual future, then you get the less vital and vibrant future you projected.
One of the signs of mediocrity in the state level denominational organization was in the area of work that sponsored the special missions offering that funded about half of the missional efforts. The year before I arrived their offering raised about $777,000. Their goal, however, for the next year was only $700,000.
I questioned this. It did not appear challenging. The response received was that they set their goals low so they are sure they will meet them. My thought was that I had just discovered another example of mediocrity.
Vision Insight 52: When vision is of a mediocre, business-as-usual future, then less is less and more is nowhere in sight.
I was shocked one day when a colleague wanted to hold up as excellent a congregation which was so mediocre that the possibility that it might have to close down within a year or two was very high. I visited the congregation and discovered that a mediocre, business-as-usual future was its goal.
Vision Insight 53: When vision is of a mediocre, business-as usual future, the congregation may be turning its back on the call of God.
What do too many congregations do when God calls them to a prophetic, innovative vision for Kingdom progress? They lie down beside it and go to sleep. They declare they cannot really do what God wants them to do. They declare this is their church and they will do what they want to do, not realizing in saying this they are spiritually insubordinate in opposing God’s leadership.
Vision Insight 54: When vision is of a mediocre, business-as-usual future, it can negatively impact the spirituality of the congregation.
If the vision of a congregation is mediocre, characterized by business as usual, then expectations of spiritual maturity among congregational participants are likely to be low. Cutting edge innovation in the spiritual formation, leadership development, and missional engagement of congregations is not necessary if the expectations are low.
This is the 19th in a series of posts on congregational vision. To see all the posts go here. The next blog post in this series is entitled, “Congregational vision is about expanding and deepening disciplemaking.”