It was late on a Friday night – I had just finished a concert with our college Wind Symphony in Hammond, LA, and I was extremely hungry. I swung through the drive-through at McDonald’s and decided to get the juiciest of juicy – the legacy – the most calories for my money – the “Big Mac.” It was the usual McDonald’s experience – a monotonous tone from a complacent employee, a 75 mile per hour recap of my order, and a quick swipe of the card with the “no-look” handoff as I zipped past the window. A little way down the road, I unpacked my deliciously unhealthy treat… I could just feel my arteries clogging as my teeth sank into its delectable essence. But what was this??? Only one meat patty! (For those who are uninformed, the Big Mac is supposed to have a patty on top and a patty on bottom – whether either of them are actually “meat” has needs be discussed in a different blog at a different time.) As I investigated further, I came to realize that there was indeed only one patty – They had torn it in half and put one half on the top and the other half on the bottom, at opposite ends of the burger. The nerve! The audacity!! The mediocrity!!!
Christian Apathy and the "E-P-M"
My Band Director, Dr. Glen Hemberger, (yes, that’s his real name) had addressed this in class before. He called it, “The Endless Pursuit of Mediocrity” (or “E-P-M”). You know how it is… The better of a job you do, the more people require from you. If you are constantly exceeding the normative, people come to expect it from you. But you don’t get a pay raise, you don’t get a plaque on the wall, and you certainly don’t get a bigger tip. When all is evaluated, it seems more economical to do only what is expected of you, and be satisfied in mediocrity. However, as the bar of mediocrity is constantly lowered, your pursuit of it is constantly minimizing. Then some brave, ignorant soul will eventually come along and do more than is expected, raising the bar for all of us, and bringing into full circle the endless pursuit.
I would venture to say that Christians are on an “E-P-M” of their own these days. It is normative to go to church one to three times a week, halfway participate in Sunday School class (if we even attend one), dump our kids off in AWANA while we sit on the bench and “talk,” create our grocery lists during the sermon, and brush by each other in surface-level fellowship that never gets beyond, “How are you?” – “Great. How are you?” But how many of us earnestly and actively seek to know God more fully? John 17:3 says, “This is eternal life: that they might know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent-Jesus Christ,” (CHSB). We’ve become complacent – satisfied – apathetic – indifferent – when it comes to experiencing and knowing the God of Eternity.
But, really, why should we exceed the norm? Why should we endeavor to study the Word of God, fall in love with Him, and come to know Him more fully? After all, the sad truth is, our churches place higher value on a member who will commit to teaching two Sunday School classes, lead a “Life-Group,” serve in the Youth department, and sing in the choir than they do on one who will spend hours a day in prayer for her brothers and sisters or hours in the Bible studying the “meat” of the Word. We are totally fine with people who only have half a patty on the top and half a patty on the bottom, as long as they look like a complete, picture-perfect Big Mac on the outside. Where is the accountability? Where is the exhortation? Where is the devotion to growing “mature” Christians instead of immature chess pawns?
All this considered, however, the church is not to blame. Individuals are. We can go around and around all day long casting blame and debating cause/effect. But ultimately, who will be held accountable for your spiritual growth? Me? Your church? No, my friend – that would be you. You must take initiative for your own spiritual growth. “How?” you ask? By reading the Word, communicating (prayer) with the Father, and placing yourself under spiritual, scriptural authority and accountability. I can’t do that for you. Your pastor can’t do that for you. Your church can’t do that for you… it’s all you.
Then, as we grow individually, we should, together, raise the bar of normativity. Viz. as we grow individually, we will grow corporately. I am privileged to serve a church where its members honestly seek to know God more fully. There are, of course, exceptions – and I will never shy away from that. My question is, “What about you?” Are you seeking to know God more fully? Or are you lost on the road toward the “Endless Pursuit of Mediocrity?”
Grace and Peace,