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Defining Christian Excellence

Christian Leadership Alliance

By Ted W. Engstrom & Ed Dayton

Excellence is a Measure

Excellence demands definition. One of the trite replies of our day, when asked how we like something or how well something is going is “Compared to what?” But excellence is like that. It assumes a standard. And conversely, excellence assumes inferiority. It assumes there’s a way of doing or being something that is:

  • Less than best.
  • Less than what it could be.
  • Less than worthwhile.

Excellence Assumes a Goal

Excellence demands that we think beyond dreams, beyond concepts, that we think into reality in terms of what can be, what should be.

Excellence Assumes Priorities

It not only has to do with doing one thing well but also is concerned with a choice between goals. There are some goals that are less worth, less honoring to God, goals that fall short of all that God intends us to be.

It is not that there is one right way for all men, but rather that a potential for excellence in some area lies in all men. We are called to live a life in which we need to do many things, but within which we are called to dome of those things with excellence.

Certainly we are to excel in prayer. Or perhaps we are to excel in one book of the Bible or to exercise one gift to its fullest potential. (some of us have great gifts, but we are too lazy to unwrap them.)

Excellence is a Process More Than an Achievement

Life is a process-management is a process. There are times in history when we can look at an individual or event an pronounce it as excellent, but it is continually pressing on that marks the man dedicated to excellence.

Paul said, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13,14)

Excellence Should Be a Style of Life

Know Yourself. What is your style? What can it be? People are tremendously different; outgoing vs. introspective, thinkers vs. doers, leaders vs. followers, logical vs. intuitive, and teachers vs. learners. Some are ahead of their time and some are behind.

For each of us, excellence demands that we be true to the best that God has placed within us. Our style of life should be one of excellence. The Christian can adopt nothing less as his or her goal.

Excellence Has to Do With Motives

Excellence is not achieved easily. The first 80 percent of an excellent solution comes easy. The next 15% is hard. And only the highly motivated person reaches beyond to the 100%.

There is joy in such achievement that is an all too rare experience for most of us. One of the mysteries of living is that the goal that is easily achieved brings little inner satisfaction or reward. Old victories will serve old age, but before I reach that, I must forget what lies behind and press on to the goal.

 Think BIG.

Believe a BIG God.

Remember that God is greater.

Excellence Assumes Accountability

Excellence assumes accountability, either to our own inner standard or the standard of the group. Oh, how we Christians have so often missed that!


This post is an excerpt from the book, Nonprofit Leadership in a For-profit World, edited by Dr. David J. Gyerston and Joseph Krivickas. (Standard 2011)  This compilation was specifically published for Christian Leadership Alliance.  Adapted from articles in the Christian Leadership Letter that Dr. Ted W. Engstrom and Ed Dayton wrote during their time in leadership at World Vision, CLA shares it here with you

Ted W. Engstrom was a mentor’s mentor. Perhaps no single individual has influenced so many of today’s senior Christian leaders as he did. He mentored hundreds of Christian CEOs, helping them to focus on best practices with practical advice – but always with a penetrating, sobering call to personal integrity and spiritual maturing.

It was Ted’s vision of leaders investing leaders that began what is today, Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA). The spirit of Ted’s commitment to excellence and investing in other leaders continues on as CLA introduces its newest lifelong learning experience – The Outcomes Mentoring Network. 

Explore how you can be part of it. Learn more and sign up today!

The Outcomes Mentoring Network



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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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