"When ‘GOOD’ Becomes the Enemy of ‘BEST’"
I have always thought
that ‘good’ and ‘best’ were very close together. When I was at school,
on the occasions that I got a ‘good’ result in a test or exam, it was
usually very close to the ‘best’ result.
In a strange paradox,
I can now see situations where ‘good’ is not close to ‘best’, but rather
it is at the opposite end of a spectrum from ‘best’. In situations like
this, ‘good’ is good, but if we settle for ‘good’, we remain a long way
from ‘best’, and hence ‘good’ is effectively the enemy of ‘best’.
Let me give an example
to illustrate. Imagine you are walking on a path though the forest, and
your goal is to get to the beach. You reach a point where the path splits
into 2 paths, and you can’t see the beach, so you are unsure which way
to go. The only sign giving any direction says ‘go this way to see the
beach’. Thinking this is a good choice, you follow the direction of the
sign, believing that if you can see the beach, you should be close to
it. Unfortunately the path leads you to the top of a mountain, where you
find lots of people sitting on their beach chairs enjoying the beautiful
view of the beach. The place you have arrived seems good – at least you
can see what the beach looks like – but you have taken the wrong path
and are now a long way from the beach. Hence, this ‘good’ result (seeing
the beach) has effectively been the enemy of the best result (getting
to the beach). To get from the ‘good’ to the ‘best’ in this situation
requires a long journey, retracing your steps and then going down the
I consider some of the aspects of church and christianity I see around
me, I am becoming increasingly convinced that many of us are settling
for ‘good’ results, that are often the enemy of the ‘best’. We accept
many things that are helpful in themselves, but are stopping us reaching
out for the best. Another simple example is that of a starving person,
who needs a full meal, but instead eats some nice chocolate which staves
off the hunger pangs and stops them searching for that nourishing meal
that their body needs.
what are some of the areas where the ‘good’ might be the enemy of the
‘best’? Consider these possibilities, which might whet your appetite
(you can probably think of further examples). They all deserve more
in-depth examination than this brief article can offer.
might be GOOD, BUT ….
are usually built around the ‘person of God’, who has had in-depth
theological training, and has heard from God and is now disseminating
the word of God to the people in eloquent discourse. This creates
a dependence on being ‘fed’ by the necessary combination of ordained
ministers + theological training + eloquent preaching.
typically assume that God is saying the same thing to everyone.
people can remember a sermon the next day, week or month (often the
preacher can’t remember it either).
listening is a very ineffective way of learning.
usually allow no opportunity for questions or discussion.
who have been in church for many years, and have often heard 50-100
sermons each year, still think they need to be ‘fed’ by a sermon each
the New Testament, preaching is almost always linked to preaching
of the gospel or kingdom to those that are outside or on the edge
of the kingdom. There is arguably no biblical basis for preaching
in churches to people who have been Christians for many years, particularly
as firstly the NT apostles were formulating new doctrine (which we
aren’t allowed to do), and secondly we have the New Testament available
to study ourselves, complete with many wonderful study aids.
might be private and corporate Bible study, listening to God, discussion,
and working together in community to help each other apply biblical
truths in our lives and communities
programs might be GOOD, BUT ….
should take individual and corporate responsibility for ‘mission’
to our community
members often get so absorbed in church activities that they have
little personal time left to form quality friendships with people
outside the church
people involved in good ‘evangelistic’ churches seem to have no sense
of personal responsibility for mission, but instead rely totally on
the church evangelism programs.
programs might help people feel good about themselves, but they are
usually very ineffective. Most western churches are static or declining,
and few grow consistently at even 5% per year.
might be individuals taking personal responsibility for mission, including
building valuable relationships with people outside the church. There
would be significant changes if normal church attenders started thinking
& praying ‘If I was a missionary here, I would …."
programs might be GOOD, BUT ….
are built around a ‘come to us’ thinking. "build it and they will
come’ might have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but
it rarely works today
to us’ thinking is one of the same problems that stifled the effectiveness
of OT Judaism
programs keep everyone too busy, and create barriers to the community
programs have a bizarre need to ‘own’ the programs. Churches seem
to have an insane desire to start tramping clubs, playgroups, cafes
etc, which seems a lot like keeping the salt in a saltshaker & asking
the meal to come into the saltshaker. It seems wiser and more biblical
to encourage Christians to be involved in community-centred organisations
and activities – the equivalent of adding a little salt to a meal.
might be genuine community involvement with no hidden agenda.
might be GOOD, BUT ….
to excellence can restrict people’s participation in events, and put
the emphasis on the outward aspects rather than the inward.
might be opportunity, involvement and empowerment.
programs to reach youth (loud, high-tech programs with all the bells
and whistles draw the youth crowds in) might be GOOD, BUT ….
health studies show that whatever is used to draw the crowd usually
needs to be maintained at ever increasing levels to keep the crowd.
can be very hard to turn youth who are drawn to the bright lights,
into true disciples.
might be a counter-cultural call & training to radical discipleship
about the blessing of God for individuals might be GOOD, BUT ….
often seems like a re-packaged, slightly more acceptable version of
Bible says very little about ‘God wanting to bless us and give us
a wonderful life’, but rather it contains a strong call requiring
us to commit to generosity, sacrifice and care of the poor, loving
our neighbours and laying down our lives for them.
might be teaching and obeying the Biblical emphasis on sacrifice,
generosity and care for the poor.
to the local church might be GOOD, BUT ….
costs a lot of money to operate a ‘normal’ church. To quote a friend
‘while you have temples and priests, you need tithes and offerings’.
It seems reasonable that church members pay their share towards the
cost of running a church – but there are good arguments questioning
the Biblical basis for what is often taught about tithing to a local
might be lower cost churches, and discipleship which incorporates
a commitment to sacrifice and generosity.
quality ‘professional’ worship services might be GOOD, BUT ….
often seem like karaoke worship.
often focus on what ‘I’ feel and get from it, rather than being an
act of giving to God.
neglect the wide variety of ways we can worship God.
slot worship into a Sunday worship service, and ignore the possibilities
for worship during the remainder of the week
worship is conspicuously absent from the example of the early church
in Acts 2&4, and is hardly mentioned in the rest of the NT.
might be genuine participation, variety, and the realization that
we can worship God 24/7 in an amazing variety of ways
churches might be GOOD, BUT …
churches get bigger, the structure gets more complicated and harder
churches get bigger, it is easier for people to hide (there is no
back pew in a house church)
churches get bigger, they get less personal and it is easier for attendees
to not be connected with others. Hence, bigger churches attempt to
fix this problem through the use of cells or house groups
churches get bigger, they get even more expensive to run (per person).
In contrast, house-based churches cost virtually nothing.
larger the church, the wider the ripples when something goes wrong.
Terrorist cells have learnt this principle, and stay small to ensure
that if anything goes wrong, it will only affect a small group of
(eg NCD) shows that smaller churches are more effective at evangelism,
and empowering people to use their spiritual gifts. In fact, Natural
Church Development (NCD) studies show that overall, the only area
that larger churches are better than smaller churches is in corporate
might be many smaller churches
churches might be GOOD, BUT
smaller, less structured churches there are usually no power struggles,
as there is no power to struggle over
or lightly structured churches can respond rapidly to adjust to changing
might be churches with minimal structure.
attendance might be GOOD, BUT ….
training might be GOOD, BUT ….
not sure there is much NT basis for the current emphasis on leadership
talk of ‘servant leadership’, but it seems strangely different from
the version that Jesus taught & demonstrated
church structures typically necessitate a controlling form of leadership,
particularly as churches become larger
might be discipleship, service and radical empowerment
ministry might be GOOD, BUT ….
is arguably little if any biblical basis for officially ordained ministers
Protestant Reformation was birthed with the concept of the priesthood
of all believers, yet we still usually have the power and spiritual
gifts held firmly in the hands of the ‘minister’.
might be empowered laity in a virtually unstructured church environment
(accepting models of church and christianity because they seem to work
& get some reasonable results) might be GOOD, BUT ….
might be rethinking the paradigms
the church might be GOOD, BUT ….
work together to ensure we don’t settle for ‘good’ and miss the ‘best’.