“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
I am inspired to write about this topic based on Apostle A.N.Y KumI-Larbi’s presentation on “The COP Brand” during the Heads’ session at the 2023 Ministers and Wives’ Conference. He touched briefly on ministry excellence as one of the Church’s core values, which must be held in high esteem.
From The Church Pentecost Ministerial Handbook, page 14, ministry excellence is when the church seeks, “…to honour God who gave His best (Christ Jesus as the saviour) by maintaining a high standard of excellence in all our ministries and activities.”
Therefore, it is evident that our visionary mandate to reposition the local Church for maximum impact in the nations requires ministry excellence.
I have, therefore, taken delight to study and reflect through the various locus of meanings and some strategic ways to achieve this core. With Jesus as our perfect example, four other Biblical characters are in view as I analyse their lives and ministry from the lens of excellence.
WHAT IS MINISTRY?
From the Greek word ‘diakoneo’, ministry means “to serve or to serve as a slave”. In the New Testament, Ministry is seen as service to God and other people in His name. The bridge of the secular and the sacred could be hinged on how excellent the ministry should become. Believers should come to the realization of accepting the secular noble professions they do as equally divine as those duties in the Church.
The medical doctor who diagnoses and administers drugs is no different from the Pastor who discerns the cause of the sickness and prays for healing and relief. Both seek same results yet by different authority of God’s wisdom and Power (1 Corinthians 1:24). Jesus provided the pattern for Christian ministry by saying that “He came not to receive service but to give service” (Matthew 20:28). This gives a clearer picture of the subject – that, one key component for leaders to achieve excellence is to adopt the servant-leadership model.
WHAT IS EXCELLENCE?
Excellence as a general concept can be defined as striving to be the best you can be and to do the best you can. In others words, it is the valuable quality of being excellent.
Excellence can also be summed up so as to make maximum impact in the life of people in the name of God. It is important to note that excellence can be achieved through the application of diligence. Diligence is the act of giving the matter at hand the necessary care and attention it deserves. In other words, the end product of diligence is excellence. Excellence cannot be achieved on average or from a mediocre effort (Proverbs 12:27).
The Christian pursuit for excellence should be to ultimately honour God who is magnificent and perfect in His ways. Secondly, God shall give attention to every detail at His just judgement. Since we know that we will one day stand before Him and give account of our ministry (sacred and secular), there is the need to be aware of His standards of judgment; His nature, word and our conscience (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The standard for excellence is therefore not to be determined by institutional policies but the standard of God revealed through scripture; that is what the The Church of Pentecost stands for. Conversely, sometimes, one may give out his best at the blind side of humanity and without acknowledgment. Notwithstanding, there is every assurance that God will reward your labour in the secret.
Thankfully, Christians have been aided to excel in all that have been entrusted to them. This is because God has modelled excellence through His perfect creation, His dealings with mankind, the ministry of the Lord Jesus and the communion with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, since God has given us His best, He expects us to do same and not settle for the average or neutrality. It is either Hot or cold and not almost hot or cold.
The two scriptures above admonish us to strive for the best and give our all to God as He also gives us his best – the only begotten Son.
EXAMPLES OF BIBLICAL CHARACTERS WHO EXCELLED IN THEIR CALLINGS
• Joseph • Daniel • Nehemiah • Paul • Jesus Christ
These characters have been carefully chosen and studied because they all under similar but ranging opposing challenges were called to save a people through service and yet, diligent as they were, succeeded in excellence.
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS THAT MADE THEM ACHIEVED MINISTRY EXCELLENCE
• They were People of Prayer.
They prayed for everything. In the presence of the King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah was praying; Daniel prayed three times a day and was not even intimidated by the life-threatening king’s decree. Jesus, the Son of God, could pray all night. The Apostle Paul could not have told the Thessalonian church to pray without ceasing when He himself was not praying.
Therefore, the life of an excellent person is shelved by the aura of prayer mounted overtime. When prayer becomes a lifestyle, challenges will come along with their solutions. The enemies of prayer should therefore be handled with discipline and technique; thus, the CoP popular adage, “Prayer is the work and the work is prayer.” Complacency, Laziness, together with the difficulty of prayer should consciously be handled and overcome by your relationship with the Holy Spirit and discipline.
Christians are not to make anything valuable than prayer. With this, the road to excellence would be made straight irrespective of how crooked it may be.
• Good Planners.
Another important value of these characters is their ability to plan ahead of time. Consider Joseph and the dreams he had. The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream and the 14-year national development plan he made for Egypt in less than a minute. Nehemiah’s plan and execution of building the walls of Jerusalem amidst the fierce persecution of Tobias and Sanballat. Every good leader’s excellence depends on having a good planning attitude. Time and space may not permit to analyse Paul’s ministry and how he planned his three missionary journeys.
James Baker, a former US Secretary of State, once said, “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” Planning becomes the roadmap to future manifestations. Failure to plan therefore becomes a plan to failure.
• They were Good Team Players.
All the characters of our discussion achieved excellence because they were also good team players. A team player is someone who has the ability to work with others irrespective of his role in the team. They don’t conflict with others on personal aggrandizement except for the good of the course. Jesus could mix with the disciples so well that not even his persecutors could identify him among the team. It took the kiss of Judas Iscariot to reveal him. Paul is read in his books and Acts of the Apostles several times moving with Barnabas, Timothy, Epaphras, Luke and others. Consider Daniel and his brothers, Nehemiah and the returnees. They portrayed a good model of teamwork. It is important to note that, even though they were good team players, they also supervised all other activities in the team for perfection. It is not enough to be a team player as leader without supervision. Man is naturally, forgetful, ungrateful and lazy. It demands supervision to put them on their toes for the good of themselves and the course for the goal.
• They worked hard.
Every Good leader should strive to be a hardworking person and not to rely on the issue of blame games, striving and contentions. If you want to get the best results you need to go the extra mile. From the parable of the great banquet, God is revealed as one who hates excuses and even gets angry at it (Luke 14:21). The subject of discipline always suffices when hard work is mentioned. It takes discipline in the mind, emotions and on the body to be hardworking. We should however understand that hard work is not enough without consistency. A person becomes relevant with hard work when he is consistent in it.
• They were full of the Holy Spirit.
As leaders, we need the daily leadings of the Holy Spirit. The routine should not be methodical but be inspired by the Holy Spirit. His inspiration may not be direct but through circumstances. Do not underrate systems, people and circumstances around you, for it is the same channels God can use to give you illumination into a matter. Jesus, fully God and Man, was led by the Spirit to succeed, how can a mere mortal man do without the help of the Holy Spirit?
• They were focused.
Nehemiah, Paul, Joseph, Daniel and Jesus faced opposition, yet their focus was never compromised for fear, failure, shame, hunger or even death. However, if the oppositions are not realistic do not worry about it. But when they are genuine, and expose your weaknesses and failures, be mature enough to use the opportunity to build yourself up. Joseph family’s intimidation at him when he shared his dreams made him stronger to stand in the presence of King Pharaoh to speak wisdom to him. He never allowed those intimidations and persecution to eat up his righteousness and gifts.
• They had an exemplary character.
They were people of virtue and noble characters. You need to live a holy and godly life. Any Christian or leader who fails to work on the weaknesses will experience shipwreck. The closer you are to God, the clearer your eye becomes, and it makes you see the reality of yourself that makes you humble. Those who wait on the Lord are not only renewed in strength, but He works on them till His nature reflects on them. You may not be so gifted but with godly virtues you will attract others who will help you to succeed in ministry. It is an easy way for excellence.
AREAS WE CAN EXCEL AS CHRISTIANS AND LEADERS.
• Assigned functions.
Basically, everyone has been directly or in directly engaged with some kind of routine functions for survival. We should be conscious of making out a great mark of excellence in every sphere we have been placed. There should not be a difference between the sacred and secular, private and public, personal and employed. Equal efforts should be applied in all situations as doing for the Lord. Precision and excellence should always be the hallmark. In the case of the preacher and the church worker, sermon preparation, prayer, Bible study, funerals, weddings, dedications and other ceremonial services should be well organized not only for results but for the beauty and the glory they bring to God and the church. Paul said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…” (Colossians 3:23).
• In our relationships:
We are all engaged in some kind of relationship; family, friends, church members, or colleagues at work. However, the basis of all relationships is the home where values and behaviours are formed. Much attention should therefore be paid to the marriage to make it an excellent one. The negative axiom that there’s no perfect marriage should be relooked from the lens of scripture. The standard should always be on how Christ marries the church and not how Adam married his wife. This could translate to the larger society. The reflection of the effect of bad marriage on society is the corruption and deviance we see in our various communities. Be conscious to make all your relationships an excellent one that will bring Glory to the kingdom of God. Romans 12:16 “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited”.
Jesus said anything that comes from the inside of a man has the potency to defiles the whole body (Mark 7:20). Our choice of words and the magnitude of the negative emotions attached should be a cause of concern. How you address people determines their love and support for your course. You should learn how to efficiently use the horizontal and vertical channels of communication. At the workplace, reports to leaders should give a clear picture of what you have done or seen. Anyone who communicates in details and concise manner is loved to be listened to. Nehemiah was able to explain his worries to the King, Joseph explained Pharaoh’s dream to the latter and convincing. This is not to undermine those with speech impairments. The focus is on the subject of communication and not the medium.
• Work or Job.
Applying diligence to your work or trade is a success already determined. Proverbs 22:29 “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” It is not always that your best will give you the best results but don’t give up, continue to trust in God for He has promised to help you (Psalm 37:5). There is the need to strive for excellence in your own work. The value excellence adds to work is that it makes your work attractive and thereby increases patronage. Everyone wants an excellent product. The artisan, fashion designer, the barber and all those who provide services are celebrated and patronized when they give out excellent services. The Man of God does not only need to achieve excellence because men approve it. It is God’s standard for assessing his success. The bride of Christ (the Church) is supposed to be without spot or wrinkle.
The best way to pursue excellence is to pursue God, and to reflect on his character. The reward of excellence is seen in the output of work that gives satisfaction. When we strive and achieve perfection, you can minimize criticism, shame and chastisement. More importantly, God approves those who stick to His standards and preferences. He will reward you. In the CoP, excellence is core to the ministry and should be seen in our daily and routine lifestyles and at workplaces. Orderliness that brings excellence to the church should be emphasized. Preparations toward opening prayer, worship, preaching and prayers as well as other administrative measures like ushering and protocols, finance and records should be made in order to achieve excellent service. The Local assembly should be repositioned for excellence.
To achieve excellence, the attitude of prayer, hard work, focus, the spirit of teamwork should be built in your communion of the Holy Spirit to exhibit exemplary life in relationships, duties, communication and work. If these things abound in our churches, the radiance of the glory of God will reflect on us also. Excellence is achievable. Strive for it.
Written by Pastor Eric Gyacham (Area Head, Bawku)