Excellence in the church is a subject I have strong feelings about, but there are a couple of areas that we should strive to excel in.
Paul encourages the church in Corinth to excel in building up the church (1 Cor 14:12). I think whether you seek the spiritual gifts (as Paul encouraged the Corinthians to do) or not, the goal of building up the church is a pretty good one.
The second area Paul challenged the church in Corinth to excel in was giving (2 Cor 8:7). It’s an encouragement that we constantly need to hear. It applies not just to the individual but also to the whole church. Are we generous towards the cause of the Gospel and the needs of the saints?
Tim Challies in a post about the Christian character writes,
It is the Christian’s duty and delight to hold loosely to wealth and to give generously to the Lord’s work. Any problem with money is not the fault of the money itself but with the sneaky, sinful human heart.
In order to excel in giving, it would help if we enjoyed giving. We live in a culture where even in the church we don’t really believe Jesus when he says, ‘It’s more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).
As Randy Alcorn says, we live in a culture where “It’s considered normal to keep far more than we give.”
I’ve personally tried to cultivate the discipline of trying to annually increase our giving, although I confess to not always succeeding. So I was challenged by the example of this couple who give away 40% of what they earn and live on just 6%.
It would be easy if that 6% was a huge sum of money, but it isn’t. They’ve simplified their lives to be more generous and being more generous makes them happier than having more things.
But recently I’ve lost sight of the little joys of giving, lost a little creativity and desire to excel in this grace. I like the idea of creating a generosity kit so that I can be ready to give and to think of new ideas in a world where I don’t carry cash.
Yet the most striking reason of all to want to excel in giving is because that’s what Jesus did for us. He was radically generous (2 Cor 8:9). In learning to give selflessly and not to live selfishly, I grow in the likeness of Christ and that truly is a more excellent way.