1 Corinthians 1:26
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
I have been average most of my life. For the most part, I was an average student at school. I graduated from college with an average GPA. I wasn’t inept at sports, but I wasn’t great either; I was average. I have always been of average height and weight for my age (except at birth, when I weighed in at over 10 pounds). The last half marathon that I ran, I crossed the finish line in the middle of my age group and in the middle of all of the runners; average. There are a few things I do very well and many things I don’t do so well. On balance, I am a pretty average guy.
I have sat through a number of talks from key, church leaders who have told me that unless I am excellent at what I do, I am wasting my time. At one of those events the speaker actually informed the crowd of pastors that the majority of us should quit because we were, at best, average.
Larry Osborne, in his book “Accidental Pharisees”, reminds us that, by definition, the majority of us are average. It is impossible for everyone to be above average. If you are familiar with the Bell Curve, you will remember that the big bubble is in the middle and not the ends. As human beings, we tend to congregate in the middle.
One of the problems that we have in the Church is that we elevate certain aspects of ministry and downplay all of the others. A person who excels at preaching or teaching is seen as a more excellent Christian than a person who cannot speak in front of a crowd, but is excellent at showing mercy. We elevate the evangelist who stands in the spotlight, while we forget the sound guy who sits in the shadows and makes the big guy look and sound good.
You can make a compelling case that we should strive for excellence in everything that we do. Afterall, if we are serving Christ, shouldn’t we give Him our best. But the dark side of striving for excellence is pride and arrogance. There is a difference between striving for personal excellence and measuring your excellence against others. In truth, everyone who proclaims the goal of excellence in their area of giftedness is often blind to how they are less than excellent in a number of other areas.
One of the reasons I like to compete in long-distance races is that everyone is a winner, not just the person who crosses the finish line first. When I run, I am not competing against all the other runners, I am competing against one runner; me. In the Christian life, we are not in competition with one another to see who is the better Christian. We are competing for the goal of being the best Christian we can be.
The truth is, in an age that worships excellence, we will not all be excellent. As believers, we will not all attain the level of excellence of Billy Graham or Rick Warren or John Piper, and that is okay. The Bible is full of average people, who put their faith and trust in Christ, and faithfully followed Him. That is what Jesus is expecting from each of us. It is okay to be an average Christian as long as you are being the best, average Christian you can be.
Paul reminded the Corinthian believers that they were nothing outstanding or special, but God used them to do some amazing things. As Paul said: But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:27-31
It is a good thing to strive for excellence in your life. Be the best you can be, but then be content with that. There is some God-given ability in all of our lives where we will excel beyond the norm, but in the majority of our lives we will be average. Too often the quest for excellence puts the focus on us instead of God. We need to think less about ourselves, our personal score card, and think more about glorifying God in all we do.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.