UGM is not just shaped by knowledge, experience, and skill, but by the true condition of our hearts - collectively. Excellence in ministry flows from a heart that is in holy, reverential, life-rearranging, motivation-capturing awe of the Lord of Glory. Awe of God inspires, it motivates, and it convicts. There is no replacement for what the awe of God can do in a leader.
We are seeking to be in such awe of God. Having been so satisfied by His grace that you and I have a zeal to display that grace to those under our care. When we are captivated by this awe, captivated by Jesus’ excellence, we are never just doing our duty. We never are just going through the motions. Instead, we are worshipping our way through life as ambassadors of the King. And we are in reverential fear of doing anything that would dent, diminish, or desecrate that glory in any way.
A Devotion on Excellence
Excellence: qualities to the highest degree. Extremely good. Supreme. Brilliant. Distinct.
Last week, I shared this devotion at a training for UGM ministry directors, and was encouraged to share it here as well. We were discussing our monthly core value of excellence.
Excellence is a relationship.
Excellence is a relationship. A relationship with the one who is true and perfectly excellent. Jesus alone is the sum and definition of what excellence is and does. So, the one who is excellence, in His grace, came to us when we were in a state of anything but excellence, and by grace offered us the promise of becoming a partaker of His divine nature. He then connects us to purposes and goals higher and grander than we would have ever desired for ourselves. By grace, He causes us to think what we would not have thought, to desire what we never before wanted. He opens our eyes to His glory, His excellence. He opens the door to His kingdom. He calls and empowers us to display His excellency and the excellency of His grace. Only this excellency—only His excellency—has the power to free us from the false excellency of human pride and the mediocrity that results when we are okay with ourselves and our world just the way they are.
“When we truly know Him (Jesus), our desires are fixed on being a conduit of His excellence.”
When we become attached to what is truly excellent in every way, when we truly know Him (Jesus), our desires are fixed on being a conduit of His excellence. I think when we understand this, we will have high standards for every aspect of the ministries under our care. Whether it at Motors, the Thrift Stores, Administration, Development, MarCom, IT, HR, Recovery, Shelters, Clinics, Culinary, whatever part of the body in UGM that you have a role in, we are striving to faithfully display the excellence of the one who calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
This means we will be committed to the disciplines that cause our ministries to be as free from chaos and mediocrity as is possible between the “already” and the “not yet.” First, we must be committed to preaching the gospel to ourselves, reminding ourselves of our ongoing need of relationship with Christ and the family of God. We constantly remind ourselves of how we are tempted to value what is easy, expedient, and comfortable, rather than what is excellent, striving for what is better. And then we tell ourselves repeatedly that we have been given bountiful grace for each of these battles.
This also means we will do everything to maintain relationships of unity, understanding, and love between us. We know we are sinners. We know we will sin against one another. We know there are moments when we will be disappointed and hurt. We know we will be misunderstood and wrongly judged. We know we will be selfish and controlling, self-righteous, and demanding. We know we will ask one another to give what we have already been given in Christ. So, we are determined to give ourselves the humility of approachability and the courage to love honesty. We, as a UGM family, have committed ourselves to regular patterns of confession and forgiveness. And we will celebrate together the grace that enables sinners to live and minister alongside sinners in a community of unity and love, striving to show His excellence.
“If you forget who you are in light of Christ...your ministry will be shaped by a smugness that is more about displaying how great you are, rather than how glorious is the Savior.”
We cannot have a ministry that is committed to excellence if these things (if those disciplines) are not a regular part of our leadership, and if they are not present in our relationships with one another. If you forget who you are in light of Christ or who your brother and sister are in light of Christ, your ministry will be shaped by a smugness that is more about displaying how great you are, rather than how glorious is the Savior. If we are not committed to loving community, loving relationships in our UGM family, we will minister out of frustration and discouragement, displaying God’s glory in an abstract form, but not in its living, life-changing vitality.
Excellence is a way of life.
My hopes would be that our core values are not just seen as something that is important to you at work but for all of life. That this would be a rule of life that we experience in our personal spaces. In our friendships, our marriages, in our parenting, and so on. I do want to pose a question: “What does excellence look like for you? Right now.” Is the Spirit leading you into something hard? How can you show His excellence today?
Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, soul, mind, strength as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
As you serve each other, as you serve your employees, as you serve “your” customer – It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Do everything with excellence.
For more on UGM's approach to excellence in every area of our ministries, view the 2022 annual report.