Pastor, It’s Not A Competition
It’s Sunday afternoon and you have just completed a long, but exhilarating morning in which you preached the gospel to God’s people. Your sermon could have been better, but you thought you handled the text pretty well.
Then, you log onto your social media accounts as you sit on the couch to wind down. “Hey look,” you think to yourself, “pastor so and so had twenty baptisms. I haven’t baptized anyone in weeks.” You keep scrolling. “Oh, that guy had twelve decisions and four families join. I didn’t have any of that.” Soon you realize you don’t feel as good as you did before you logged in. The scenario is all too familiar.
Competition is a natural part of life; it can be good, but often it is bad. We almost cannot help but compete. It’s reflexive and often times, even if we aren’t competing, we are comparing ourselves to others and the nasty cycle leads us back to competition.
The author of Ecclesiastes seemed to think this was the motivation for man’s work: “Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecc. 4:4)
But brother pastor, hear me when I say, you have no reason to compete. Here a few good reasons why:
1.You Are Where God Wants you
Sure, your buddy or some other big shot you follow on Twitter may have a bigger church than the on you lead, but that’s okay. If God wanted you to be in a different context with a numerically larger ministry, you’d be there. Do not despise where God has you. Maybe you baptized one person in the last three months, but you know what? That is one more soul added to the Kingdom of God. You know something else? God is glorified in that. Isn’t that our goal, anyway?
2.Your Ministry Matters
Your ministry is not somehow less significant because you have a smaller church. Those people you minister to need the gospel, too. And in this moment, in your context, you are the man for the job. Don’t think for a second that your ministry is less significant than any other pastor or ministry leader. God has uniquely gifted you for where you are for a reason. You may not see a visible difference in numerical growth, but you are helping people see Jesus and you are leading them to Kingdom service. That matters!
3.The Grass Isn’t Greener
Sure, your church has its fair share of problems. Budget problems, that grumpy deacon, the AC keeps breaking, and your janitor just quit so guess who gets to scrub the toilets after sermon prep! Hint: it’s you. And you think, “I bet Pastor Big Shot doesn’t have to deal with this with his big budget and gigantic staff. Must be nice!”
But remember: people usually wear their best faces on social media. Every church has its problems, including First Baptist Gigantic. And since it’s gigantic, the problems only multiply. Trust me, the grass is definitely not greener. Instead of dreaming about another place with seemingly less problems, focus on the people God has entrusted to your care and scrub that toilet to the glory of God!
4. Competition is A Poor Motivator
If you are not careful, comparison and competition will become your motivation for ministry success. Instead of your motive being the Kingdom and gospel flourishing, it becomes having as many members as the other guy across town. And your heart reflects the legalism you passionately rebuke in others from the pulpit. You find yourself similarly motivated by others’ acceptance, rather than spurred on by a heart devoted to God. Soon you will be striving for acceptance based on your ministry success and you will quickly forget that the basis for your acceptance is Christ alone and what He has done, not what you can do. Beware of forgetting the freedom in the gospel you so passionately seek to share with others.
5.Your Worth Isn’t Found in Ministry Success
Directly related to number four is the realization that your worth is not found in the size of your budget or church or in how “nice” your building is. Your worth is found in Christ, not your awesomeness. God loves you just as extravagantly in your failures as He does in your successes. Do not tie your worth into your ministry. Your wife doesn’t. Neither do you your kids, your dog, and God definitely does not. Why would you voluntarily take up those chains?
Pastor, this is not a competition. Competition is clearly “vanity and a striving after the wind.” If you are going to compete, you’re better off chasing the wind to see if you can grab it and hug it.
Remember, you are where God wants you. Be motivated by His glory and Christ’s fame. Be happy for how others are succeeding and thank God for the ministry He has given you. Love your people, preach Christ, and you’ll find that you can’t lose.