Perfection was stolen this week. If you are a baseball fan, you know the story. Armando Galarraga had made it to batter #27 of a potential perfect game — 26 batters and not a single one had made it to first. Batter #27, Jason Donald from the Cleveland Indians hit a ground ball towards first. The first baseman caught the ball and threw it to the Armando covering 1st Base. The batter was out by a good long step and the game was over…except it wasn’t. Umpire Jim Joyce called the batter safe and the perfect game disappeared. Joyce was wrong. It wasn’t even close. In fact later — in tears — he apologized to Galarraga. Meanwhile perfection is gone.
Out of all the games that have ever been played, by all the pitchers who have ever pitched, major league baseball has only recorded 20 perfect games. Perfection is an elusive goal. Think of all the pitchers who would be considered failures if perfection was the benchmark of success. But perfection isn’t the goal…winning the game is the goal and even perfect games require a team.
Let me make a statement that I’m afraid will not sit well with many church leaders. I wonder if choosing “excellence” as a value is close to making perfection the goal. If you google the words “church values excellence” you will have pages of churches that have chose to value — statements like — “We value excellence in all we do.” and “Excellence honors God and inspires people.”
Calvary doesn’t value excellence. There I said it. We don’t value excellence — unless you are talking about the excellence of God. Excellence isn’t our goal. Helping people engage in the mission of God is our goal — sometimes those people do not engage with excellence — but excellence is not the goal, involvement in the mission and empowerment by God is our goal.
So here is our axiom — “We will give God our best because He is worth it, not because He needs it.”
It reminds us that our effectiveness is not dependent upon our excellence but upon His involvement.
It reminds us that God values our sacrifice, our earnestness, and our commitment but sometimes — maybe more than sometimes — His strength is more visible in our messes than in our excellence.
It reminds us that half-hearted is not good enough, but failure does not limit God.
It reminds us that if we have to choose between our perfection and God’s grace, grace wins out every time.
It reminds us that everyone has a place in ministry, a part in the Kingdom epic, a calling to be in the game. Everyone. Regardless of capacity or courage, skill or ability, intellect or giftedness. Everyone.
We will give God our best, because He is worth it, not because He needs it. He is always worth it. Sometimes my best will not be very excellent, but He is always worth it and He is always so very excellent. It’s amazing what He can do with my imperfect games.