Good vs. Great

As a missionary/consultant here in Mozambique, I have the opportunity to meet with a number of people in the world of ministry. Some are national pastors or ministry leaders. Others are expatriates (foreigners).

The longer I live here, the more I have realized a disturbing trend among expatriates who want to start a ministry. They feel crippled by their inability to execute the ministry with the same level of “excellence” they would have been able to in their home country. Many people are simply crippled by their idealism for their vision, and the lack of resources and infrastructure available to them to execute the idea.

Jim Collins wrote a brilliant business book called “Good to Great” in which he compared the very best business in a particular field with a business that didn’t measure up but was started about the same time. One of his observations about why the second-place organizations didn’t achieve the same level of excellence is that “good” is the enemy of “great”. In his opinion, too many leaders and companies settled for an organization that was simply good instead of pushing ahead for one that would be great.

I believe the reverse might be true in developing countries. I wonder if great is the enemy of good here. I wonder if so much good could be done, but because the conditions in which execution must take place are so difficult, the good never happens. In other words, because a project can’t be “great” in the mind of the ministry leader, it isn’t worth doing.

You with me so far. Good ministry doesn’t happen because in someone’s mind, it can’t be “great” ministry. But here is the secret: national pastors and leaders don’t seem to have this problem. It’s only the expats. National pastors want anything better, even if it doesn’t meet up with the ideals held in some missionaries vision.

And so although we heavily invest in ministries that have a significant amount of expat involvement, we love the one’s that are led by nationals the most. And really, when a national ministry leader is doing their best to expand the Kingdom of God in their country, with their people, and God Spirit shows up and transforms lives, I triple-dog-dare you to tell me that our Father in heaven doesn’t think that is GREAT!


About daveterpstra

Beggar, Abolitionist, Man of God
This entry was posted in Missions. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Good vs. Great

  1. paul sailhamer says:

    reminds me of a favorite gk chesterton quote: “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly!” I got your drift and appreciate what you wrote.

  2. nathan says:

    I agree with you idea that many foreigners are ham strung by ideals, envisionments, and perspectives from a different land. I think though that you that great companies (ministries) are moving towards greatness and not settling for mediocraty. I have seen too much settling for mediocraty by national workers in my context and eventually the bottom rots out. So while I laud those willing to start with scraps and also encourage them to keep moving towards greatness but here is the catch, greatness from their cultural perspective mixed with God’s leading and values.

    • daveterpstra says:

      Great thoughts Nathan! I agree that we can’t be satisfied with mediocrity for the long haul. Our business/ministry is either growing or dying, there isn’t a third direction.

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