Part of what I do is to constantly evaluate what's going on at CPC and think about the future ... what kind of church will we be in a year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc. Just like anyone else I most definitely want Community to be a vibrant, healthy, and dynamic church, both now and in the years to come. So when I come across an article like "12 Signs of Mediocrity in a Church" I'm likely going to glance over it and consider how it could help me to further evaluate, plan, and lead as a pastor.
As expected, I found some helpful things in this article ... things that confirm some of the things we're already doing as well as things that perhaps call for some examination and may prompt new action. Some of the positive things we already do include a membership class (we call it our Inquirer's Class), emphasis on world missions, church discipline (gut wrenching, but we do it), and a bit of "healthy chaos" (maybe our strongest point!). Some things we surely need to ponder and consider improving include a clear strategy for discipleship (actually something that is currently in the works), recruiting new workers, specific plans to evaluate and assess ministry effectiveness, and upkeep of our building and grounds (guests notice things we've become numb to).
All in all it was a fairly helpful article but I do have some serious concerns about it. First, about something on the list that was included ... it says "tolerance of mistakes" is a sure sign of mediocrity. Just sort of makes me nervous to think that a goofball like me might not ever enjoy anything more than mediocrity. Not that anyone wants, desires, or longs for a church full of mistakes but I do think we all long for a community where we're free to make a mistake without being labeled as "mediocre." There's a huge difference between tolerating sin and tolerating mistakes. We must never tolerate sin; this is why church discipline is so vital. But mistakes? ... not sure the church needs to project an image of non-tolerance here. I'm broken, you're broken, we're going to make plenty of mistakes ... and my desire is that Community Church be a safe place to be broken, drop the ball, make mistakes, and still be loved, valued, cherished, and not labeled as a mediocre Christian.
Which brings me to my second complaint about the article - this time something that was left off the list entirely, something that I'd probably put at the very top. I believe the first sign of mediocrity in a church is a failure to faithfully proclaim the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. I know many well-oiled, fine-tuned, highly-educated, smooth-running, well-resourced churches with myriads of programs, events, strategies, ministries, workers, classes, and tolerate nothing less than excellence in everything they do, yet the Gospel is neither faithfully nor clearly proclaimed. I would suggest that this is, in fact, the "mediocre" church ... if it's even to be called a church at all.
I'm seriously not trying to go on a rant against wealthy, successful, large, corporate-like churches ... if they faithfully proclaim the Gospel then more power to them! That may not be my style but I have no real issue with them. It's just that many churches (large and small, wealthy and poor, etc.) sacrifice the integrity of the Gospel to insure that they are going to rise above "mediocrity" and be an excellent church. As we're beginning a study of Galatians we hear Paul saying that a church which compromises the Gospel is actually rejecting it entirely and that desertion of the true Gospel is actually a desertion of Christ Himself. Pretty serious charges!
If you're reading this then you, like me, likely desire for Community to be the best church we can possibly be and in no way do we desire mediocrity. Yet we mustn't allow the measurements of this world to define excellence for us. Let's align ourselves with God's Word and agree with Paul as He told the church at Corinth that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is "of first importance." And once we're resting firmly in that, then let's graciously address the wrong note that the pianist constantly hits when we sing the Doxology!