I like to compete. I have lots of fun making a game out of anything. I do not like to lose. I don’t like the team I am rooting for to lose. I am competitive and a lot of people are competitive. While competition may be OK for board games, ball games and even in the business world it is not so good in the church world.
While many will not admit it, a spirit of competition is alive and well in the church world today. This spirit of competition manifests itself in a number of different ways: A new church is being started and persons in an established church feel threatened because the new church will reach all those people they are meant to reach but have not for the last sixty years. Or, the church across town is stealing the members of our church because a few disgruntled families left and went over there. Or, there is growth in a church down the street and the leadership of the non-growing church is jealous and dismisses the growth by saying “They must have watered down the gospel.”
Unfortunately, because of what we measure (primarily nickels and noses) and because of what we celebrate- GROWTH in numbers, a spirit of competition continues to permeate the church scene. This competition has resulted in the church becoming a dispenser of religious goods and services. Those who provide the best product (lively worship, great programs for kids, and a thousand one small groups) win market share, grow, and are celebrated and lauded.
While worship should be lively and we should seek to develop disciples be it through programs or groups or service, the church must be careful that the end of such things is make disciples and not gain market share. If we do what we do citing the need for excellence and creativity and innovation to only gain market share because we are competitive then we end up missing the point of the Gospel. We reduce the Gospel.
In the end, we are all on the same team whether we share the same denominational moniker or not. I often like to make the point when working with churches that if everyone in this community decided to attend worship on Sunday we would not have enough pews and seats to hold them all. There would be far more people than seats. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. May we give up competition in the church that causes of to focus on our own fiefdoms and embrace a unity in Christ that will help us bring about Jesus’ Kingdom.