Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 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 NIV)

Upon a recent visit to a retail store, my mission was to return and exchange one item. I had paid cash, so I anticipated a quick in and out experience. I should have known I was in trouble when my original sales lady greeted me with, "You will probably get that taken care of quicker if you take it to the Customer Service window."

I did know I was in trouble almost thirty minutes later when that same lady was in the Customer Service window taking care of my issue because the young man working in the Customer Service window had no idea what to do. He was not to blame. It was not his fault. Nor do I blame the sales lady. He had not been trained to do what I needed to do — and what she assumed he had been trained to do. He was as frustrated as I was — probably more frustrated. I felt sorry for him and thanked him for his help once I was on my way out. He smiled an embarrassed smile and apologized again. I wondered, "Whatever happened to excellence?"

Whatever happened to people being trained to do their job?

Whatever happened to people knowing the product they sell, how to service it, how to answer questions about their product, or at least how to refund your money for it?

Whatever happened to people being more interested in serving their customers and less interested in their commission or what time they can get off work?

Whatever happened to those companies who believed in selling an excellent product, believed in excellence in rendering their service, and insisted on excellence in dealing with their customers?

Before you write me off as just another frustrated consumer, let me assure you that I long for the return of excellence in places other than retail stores. I long for excellence in our education institutions. I long for excellence in dining establishments. I long for excellence in health care. And I especially long for excellence in our churches. Unfortunately, I must confess that those of us in the "business of church" were among the first to say that excellence is not necessarily necessary.

Is this the best I can do?
Churches are among the worst (or best) at making excuses for our lack of excellence. "Our budget is small." "We are limited in manpower." "We cannot afford to do it right. We're just trying to get by." "It's a church. What do you expect?" Our sensitivity for not being wasteful with the almighty dollar has often blinded us to the need to do things with excellence.

The level of my frustration is increased by the fact that instead of encouraging the pursuit of excellence, we have been more prone to label it as "extravagance and waste," and level accusations of "false teaching" toward those churches who have refused to settle for mediocrity.

I find myself frequently asking, "Is this the best we can do?" Surely we can do better.

"It only costs fifteen percent more to go first class" is a regular and appreciated reminder from one of our deacons (James G. "the Chicken Deacon" Gilbert).

Isn't it time we stopped settling for less than the best?

When will we grow weary of "good enough" and settle for nothing short of doing it right?

Would it not be more appropriate for the people of God to discontinue our practice of making excuses for why we cannot or do not do things well?

Would it not serve us better to rely on the power God has made available to us to do things correctly, to strive for excellence, and to set new standards for quality programming and ministry?

Is this the best we can do?

Had I been asked to rate Customer Service Department at the retail establishment, the rating would not have been very high. While I accept the fact that I can live with poor service in department stores and restaurants, I do not believe we can continue to tolerate mediocrity and excuse sloppiness in how we carry out ministry in the name of our God, then act surprised when outsiders fail to respond to the greatness of God. Perhaps we should show them the greatness of God. Perhaps we should demonstrate His greatness in the quality of the work we do. We certainly must reflect His greatness in the quality of the lives we live.

When God created the world, He did not skimp or cut corners to save a few dollars or save a little effort. When He was done, it was very good! Genesis 1:31) When He offered His only Son as a ransom for our sins, He refused to give less than the absolute best. So how can we — His creation, His priceless possession — dare to do otherwise as we serve as His witnesses and ambassadors?

Is this the best we can do? Is this the best I can do? After all, it is the Lord Christ we are serving.