Why use the word "excellence?"

Posted Mar 15, 2013 | Center for Pastoral Excellence


By Verity A. Jones

I think it's a fair question. Does the word "excellence" have too much baggage? Do we associate it with an elitist or selective way of thinking about ministry? Does the word exclude people from a body which Jesus has commanded us should exclude no one, neither slave nor free, Jew or Greek, male or female? Does such a word undermine the real work of ministry in which we are called to take the last seat in the house, not the first seat of honor?

Much has been written on this question and I urge you to explore some of that writing on the Pastoral Excellence Network pages of this site.

But I might ask, why should we give up the word? What if excellence in ministry invokes the gospel claim that the last shall be first and the first shall be last? It's a matter of definition. What if excellence in ministry is understood as a way of ministry that is inclusive and justice-oriented? What if a congregation that is unable to fund a renewal experience for its pastor because they are in an urban area hit hard by violence and poverty, applies to the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, receives a grant, and can then give their pastor a renewal experience that will help her continue this exceedingly important work of in the kingdom?

That's excellent ministry.

Verity A. Jones is the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary.

The Center for Pastoral Excellence at CTS addresses the long arc of ministry from discernment to training to sustaining excellence ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact centerforpastoralexcellence@cts.edu.