Perfection and Excellence
by Dwight Smith
Shortly after the death of world-renowned pianist Vladimir Horowitz, I watched the re-broadcast of a Charles Kuralt interview. Kuralt's opening remarks went something like this: "When he plays, it's almost as if even he is amazed at what his fingers are doing." This description resonates with me as an example of one who had transcended perfection and moved to excellence. Let me explain.
To me, the word perfection relates a sense of precision. Within perfection there is an exactness that can be measured. Excellence, on the other hand, communicates a sense of wonder and awe. It possesses a quality that is more immeasurable - transcending any individual and moving toward the Divine.
Undoubtedly, Horowitz played with precision. But perfect execution without a sense of transcendence (excellence) will always seem to lack something. The same is true in the art we present in our churches. In order to excel, our quest for perfection must be met with something larger than ourselves. We must tap into the Source of art and creativity.
When we find ourselves striving for perfection alone, we usually end up putting ourselves at the center of the effort. How will the audience perceive us? Will they like what we offer? We become oblivious to or unconcerned with the others on the stage.
However, when we strive for excellence we seek to put God at the center of our efforts. What is the eternal impact of the presentation? We are more sensitive to the energy and efforts of those with whom we are working. Like John the Baptist in John 3:30, we think in terms of becoming "less" and Christ becoming "more."
To that end, we should ask some questions about the things we present to our congregations.
"What's the point?"
We need to make sure that our reason for adding something to a worship service (sketch, song, reading, etc.) is clear. If what we add serves only to justify our ministry, maintain a tradition or fulfill some other extraneous purpose, then what we offer will likely fall short of excellence as I have defined it above.
"Why this sketch?"
Different churches articulate different purposes for their services where drama is a component. We should choose our material with a definite purpose in mind. Whether we are seeking to challenge, confront, entertain, illustrate or inspire, the clearer we are about the "whats" and “whys” of our choices, the more likely we are to move toward excellence.
Now I need to confess. Perhaps like many of you I have walked away from a service disappointed in my performance that day. So many times following these services, someone will come up to me and say he or she experienced something special with God in the very portion I felt was so lacking in excellence.
My only reaction is to humble myself and thank the Lord for being all I cannot be. Not only is God perfect; God is excellent. May the Lord's divine nature transform all we do.