One of the things I love about watching the Kansas City Royals this year is their competitive edge. They never give up; they never quit and when the other team thinks they have them down the Royals just keep coming until they find a way to win.
So much of our culture in the US is built on competition. For example, our economy is built on competition in the market place, in my previous profession I was ranked against my peers in a way to formulate raises and bonuses, we get our kids in extra curricular activities that are based around competition (against others or themselves), we cheer on our favorite sports teams because we love competition, etc.
Our culture loves competition! In fact much of what has made America the great country that it is is a result of our nation’s competitive spirit. And I really believe that, for the most part, competition is a good thing and we have all learned a lot of great life lessons through it.
Competition Gone Bad
However, competition in the wrong context is a poison. For example, competition between siblings can lead to bitterness and jealousy, competition with our friends or neighbors to get the next big thing breeds covetousness which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), etc.
But there is one area that competition is worse than poison; it is a tool of Satan – competition within the church. Perhaps no one battles this temptation more than pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders. The temptation to look at the ministry of others and compare, criticize and question is always beckoning. Finding faults and failures of others or other ministries often gives way to one giving themselves a spiritually couched “pat on the back” because, after all, “we do it right.” This type of sin is damaging to the perpetrator’s soul, their ministry, and the overall advance of the gospel.
Now, if you are not a ministry leader you are not off the hook. Have you ever asked a believing friend about their church only to respond why your church is doing things so much better? Don’t get me wrong, it is great to be excited about your local church, in fact we should be. However, there is a subtle difference between being excited about my church and being prideful about my church “doing things the way they are really supposed to be done.”
The Character of Our Conversation
When we find ourselves involved in a conversation about troubles or failures of another ministry where there is no heartfelt concern for how these things affect the advance of the Kingdom among the nations – there is a problem. If there is no call to pray for these organizations or the people whose lives are directly impacted by these troubles – there is a problem. If the conversation is characterized by a glow of victory because our organization has what those others do not – there is a problem. If the conversation has an undertone of celebrating that our ministry is on the right track while those others are not – there is a problem. If we do not grieve hinderances to gospel advance then we are indeed the ones on the wrong track.
A Call to Move Forward in a Christ-exalting Way
Therefore, I want to call you to join me in making a concentrated effort to view the advance of the true gospel the way heaven does, by rejoicing (Luke 15)! Yes, even rejoicing with those true believers who are theologically and/or methodologically different from us. I also want to call you join me in grieving for and praying for other ministries when obstacles come their way – yes, even grieving for and praying for ministries proclaiming the true gospel that are theologically and/or methodologically different from us.
Finally, rejoicing with and praying for gospel proclaiming ministries and people who differ from us on some things is not an endorsement of all they do or all they believe. Rather, it is a humble understanding that the Lord advances His Kingdom how He wants and through whom He wants. I mean, hey, He even does it through you and me despite all of our failures and shortcomings. So, we must remember that it is always right to celebrate the advance of the gospel into the lives of people.