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September 12, 2008 / Don Sanders

What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between good and great?  In nearly every area of life, there seems to be a slim, narrow margin between something that is merely good and something that is really great.  Granted, there are many factors that could go into this equation.  Sometimes it is talent, sometimes it may be resources, and other times it may just be opportunity.  When you are talking about sports, talent can make a ball player or a team good.  Talent certainly is a prerequisite for a good musician.  I think that talent can take you a long way, but I can think of a million examples of people who had all the natural talent in the world and were just “good.”  There is something else that has to be mixed in to go from good to great.

Think about this question in terms of an organization or group of people.  What makes a good company?  What makes a great company?  What makes a good team?  What makes a great team?  Or, put in the reverse, what KEEPS a good company from being great?  What KEEPS a good team from being great? 

Now to my real question.  What’s the difference between a good church and a great church?  Is it the talent of the staff?  Maybe.  Is the the available resources?  Perhaps sometimes.  Or, what keeps a good church from being a great church?  There are probably dozens of factors that come into play (not the least of which is the blessing of God).  However, I think that one of the foremost factors that makes a church great and not just good is effort.  Now, before you think that I don’t believe in the power of God, let me assure you that I do.  Ultimately, any good or great thing that we do comes from God.  However, many times we settle for good when we could be great.  Why?  Because it takes determination, effort, hard work, and a willingness to go the second, third, fourth, and sometimes the fifth mile.  I believe that one of the fundamental differences between a good church and a great church is simply effort.

What’s the difference between a good sermon and a great sermon?  Can it be measured in hours of preparation?  What transforms just an okay lesson into a fantastic one?  Does it come down to preparation time?  The longer that I am in ministry (closing in on 20 years), the more I see some churches that are just good rather than being great.  Why?  I think sometimes it is because their leaders (ministers, elders, etc.) only want to work hard enough to just have a good church.  They become satisfied with marginal results.  In the words of my former senior minister Ben Merold, “Sometimes the staff of a church doesn’t want to pay the price to have a great church.”  Is there a price to pay?  Absolutely.  It costs time, energy, and personal sacrifice.  Is this the only think that keeps a church from being great?  Absolutely not.  However, when the leadership of a church settles for just being good, the rest of the people will follow their lead.  Also, it can’t be just one person who wants the church to be great.  It has to be the majority of the people.  I know plenty of godly men and women who diligently and faithfully serve the Lord in their churches, and the results don’t seem to come like they would want.  For a church to be great, the majority of the people have to be willing to do everything possible to make it great.

Is there anything wrong with having a good church?  Certainly not.  A good church beats a bad one every day of the week.  But why settle for good church when you could be part of great church.

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One Comment

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  1. Kent Sanders / Sep 16 2008 11:32 pm

    Lot of good thoughts here. Certainly we can all strive for something better than what we are currently doing. For anyone in church of ministry work, I would encourage them to check out Jim Collins’ little book “Good to Great for the Social Sectors” where he takes the ideas from Good to Great and applies them to non-profit groups like churches, schools, etc. It is a really good little book. My favorite concept is what he calls the “pocket of greatness” – meaning an area of an organization that rises to greatness when the rest of the organization is just mediocre. I think even if you have supervisors or leaders who settle for mediocrity, you can still do your best in your own department or ministry.

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