Have you ever heard the expression, “The group hikes at the speed of the slowest person”?

I heard someone use that the other week, as a compassionate excuse for slowing down for people who’re slow to adapt to change. My thoughts? Sounds very wise … if you consider mediocrity a virtue … and if you’re ok with the church not being here in twenty years.

Tell me, would you let the slowest surgeon set the schedule for an operating theatre … when patients are dying? Or, would you let the slackest footsoldier set the pace for an army … in an actual combat situation? No, God no. That would get you all killed. If the soldier was injured you’d pick him up and carry him. If he was incompetant … well, you’d hope he was already weeded out in basic training. In any case, mediocrity won’t do. Too much is at stake.

So why should we consider mediocrity acceptable in church? Why should we let the prayerless person set the benchmark for prayer or the mission adverse person set the benchmark for mission? Mediocrity wasn’t acceptable for Jesus. He warned people to count the cost, he called people to push themselves. Yes, we need to guard against legalism. But our commitment to generosity and grace does not mean their won’t be times we have to brush the dust off our feet, so to speak, and leave the recalcitrant behind. Where slow people are open to being carried, we should carry them, but where they’re not, well, move on. Yeah, some may be lost along the way, but consider the many more who’ll be lost if we let the lazy and insular lead.

Sound harsh?

11 thoughts on “Against Mediocrity

  1. I hear what you’re saying, being one of the ones in my church who wants to see some things change, but fearing that it will forever be a slow ride.
    I suspect your position and mine are similar in that you & I want our boat to be a fishing/rescue boat while some passengers want an enjoyable ride.


  2. I wonder if mediocrity leads, or is just prevalent? In my experience when a group hikes, there is a spectrum of speeds, and all will arrive in their own time. It would be a tragedy, as you point out if the slow, backward, or incompetent lead and drag down the rest. But on the other hand if we look at it developmentally, we wouldn’t abandon our children, or our disabled because they couldn’t keep our pace, would we?


  3. Interesting Matt, I come back to Scripture, are we luke warm, even being cold seems preferable to being luke warm…
    honestly I think we make too many excuses for mediocrity under the cover of being pastoral!


  4. Dan, that’s why I distinguish between those who are open to being carried and those who are not. Some can’t hack the pace for no fault of their own and I agree we should be prepared to carry them. But others are just foot draggers, more concerned with their own comfort than God’s call. As with Sally, “I think we make too many excuses for mediocrity under the cover of being pastoral.” Luke warmness needs to be outed for what it is.


  5. Doing “church” at a pace that is comfortable for the greatest number is not a recipe for change or growth. But, Christian exclusivism can get pretty ugly as well.
    Isn’t the big challenge that, in a way, we have to try and be both sanctuary for the hurting and home-base for the mission?


  6. In my experience the foot draggers are more likely to be the hurtERS than the hurtING.
    Some of the most hurting people I’ve come across are in fact those who find it very difficult to cope with the culturally insensitive church. I am sure you know what I’m talking about there.


  7. I do get what you’re saying here Matt, but I wonder who the “lukewarm” lead? I can’t imagine a scenario where a spiritually mature disciple would follow someone obviously spiritually backward. Are those who are being perceived as placating the slackers really leading? Or is just the blind leading the blind?


  8. Hi Matt,
    I’ve jumped ship from SydAngs.net and the humourless Calvinistas at the Moore College Finishing School – they silenced me because they don’t like my tone, poor dears. (Tea, vicar?)
    Anyway, I couldn’t agree more with your thesis! Alas, (sub)mediocrity is spreading through society as a whole, like a virus (for reasons too complex to ponder here): Why should church be any different?
    NB: Oscar Wilde – “Mediocrity is always at its best”.


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