According to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, excellent means very good, first-class, superior, suggesting that excellence implies virtue or something that is valuable.
So it seems that if our institutions of theological education can demonstrate values ??and virtues, our folders could declare that we are first class, excellent. We are more than just adequate, we are very good at what we do, or, at least, what we should be, right?
Now, how can we perceive or recognize excellence in the face of such a wide variety of theological programs doing things so differently, especially in light of the almost unlimited aspects in which we know our own institutions could be better? Next, let’s examine a little of this vast subject.
Is Biblical Excellence?
In Genesis 1, we read that God had done exactly what He intended to do, by the power of His Word. He liked what he saw and said, “That’s good!” We recognize an incomparable quality in character, results, and process. Excellence is seen in who God is in what He does and in what He does.
The day will come when we will be changed into a blink of an eye (1 Cor. 15:51), though Paul may say that already in this present time, “it is God who works in you both to will and to accomplish, according to his good pleasure “(Phil. 2:13).
By borrowing the language of the business world, the marks or standards of excellence are clear in the character of God. However, even though it is not possible to have a school without defects, we are encouraged to learn to value excellence. The apostle Paul said that we are called to reflect on what is excellent (Phil. 4: 8).
In writing to Titus the apostle pointed out that when he was doing what was good and useful to all, the church was engaged in something that could be called excellent (Titus 3: 8) and also says something similar when describing the value of love, calling it “an even more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12.31).
Is excellence the same as success?
In a way, the answer is yes. God accomplished what He wanted to accomplish. This is a first class job. There is excellence or quality when the right things are done right, however, the point is not just to achieve one goal: it is to achieve the right goals.
When excellence is fundamentally defined by “success,” there is a strong temptation to tell stories that do not exactly represent the whole picture. If a training institution reports that all of your students have successfully passed their exams, it may be worth a celebration. However, what was actually tested on these tests? Are students able to preach? Or yet, they are brilliant preachers, but so arrogant that no one wants them as shepherds? Excellence is more than just a list of “successes”, especially if these are due to poorly established goals, selective reporting, incomplete reviews or misuse of statistics.
However, when we are able to do the right things the right way, there is much to celebrate with our success. Is it relative excellence? Yes and no.
We evaluate our quality as we compare with specific standards and objectives. This is not relative. However, many patterns are different for different people and contexts, and at different times. When the goals of an activity or organization change, the criteria by which we evaluate excellence must also change.
A specialization course in marriage counseling should be evaluated differently from a weekend seminar to help couples learn to communicate better.
Both will have different standards and criteria of excellence compared to a camp that aims to help kids improve their football. Assessing excellence also depends on the skills and experience of the participants. We affirm excellence from the success we achieve in reaching a standard or goal that is appropriate to the program and the level of skills and experience of those who participate in the program.
Who determines someone’s standards or excellence?
1. God Himself. Programs of evangelical theological education exist to glorify God. Our individual and institutional aspiration must be to hear God saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
As we seek to fulfill the task we have been given, we must heed the Word of the Lord and hear the Spirit of God to walk and work with wisdom.
Although the final evaluation of our works occurs only at the end of time, when all things will be revealed, God can encourage us (and correct) in what we are doing now.
2. The community we serve. Besides God Himself, the most important place in which we should hear words of encouragement about our excellence is the community we seek to serve.
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