“Excellence” as a value sounds good. The question it begs is the frame of reference. What standard informs excellence? For example, what is excellence in regard to a ‘wineskin’?
Excellence is relative to the ideal it serves. A fresh, new wineskin is an excellent form for new wine. As the wine continues to ferment and expand, the ability to change and adjust is vital. If that new wineskin does its job, over time, it will be a treasured ‘old wineskin’.
So how do you make use of that excellent old wineskin when you have a fresh batch of wine? You take the time to remember the story of how it was excellent. It was excellent for serving the purpose of bringing the wine to maturity in a way that served its owner.
How does that relate to the church? The owner is God, the wine is the grapes from the vine (John 15) that are crushed (James 1) and fermented through hardship into mature wine (the book of Hebrews and much of the New Testament).
I am thinking about new churches forming up in a couple of places. The STORY that informs the goals for the church start with the Creation to Completion meta-narrative. God starts with good and naive people and then ends up with grace infused good and mature people,.
Excellence, then, is creating forms for character fermentation.
“The formula for the fermentations process is: sugar, added to yeast yields alcohol and carbon dioxide.
The yeast, added to the grapes converts the natural sugars contained in the grapes (glucose and fructose) into ethanol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is then released from the wine mixture into the air and the alcohol remains.
When all of the fruit’s sugars converts over to alcohol or the alcohol is tested and found to be 15%, then this means that fermentation is complete and all the natural yeast as well as the added yeast nutrients has been destroyed. The winemaker then has his goal in sight, he has his wine.”
Yeast must be added, then destroyed. Hmmmm. Good Creation, like grapes, then yeast is added, lots of mixing goes on, then the yeast is destroyed and good, mature wine is produced.
Back to the form question: grape juice bottles = sin management, sinless saccharin church. The containment of yeast, kept from the bottled bit, is not excellent. Some degree of mixture, with purposed direction, is better. One of the dangers in fermentation is having things go sour:
Winemakers will often add more nitrogen and micro nutrients during the fermentation process to prevent any production of hydrogen sulfide gas. If this gas invades the grapes, it imparts a rotten egg smell thus stinking up the mixture. Great care is taken to avoid this chemical reaction, though even the most experienced winemakers can have this unfortunate reaction occur without any fault of their own.
That is why some prefer to stick to excellent grape juice. But the motto I’m hearing, and liking, is “safety second”. Going for what is truly excellent requires risks. For the church form metaphor, I’m thinking of needing a way to take people into community, where their ‘yeast’ is brought into the mix, into the life of the church. There is a danger of stinking up the place and having it all go bad, but honestly, we don’t need more grape juice. In fact, since the fall, we no longer have grape juice. Yeast is there, whether we admit it or not. So the only way to have excellence is to go forward and have yeast and grace meet and be changed, telos’ed, fermented.
3 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanksto God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Eph 5