Avoiding Ministry Competitiveness

I am a competitive person. I’ve always enjoyed healthy competition. To be totally honest with you, I really hate losing. Whether it’s enjoying a round of golf, playing a board game with my wife, or simply racing down the hall, I’m going to compete to win. I’ve always thought the “its not whether you win or lose, only how you play the game” mentality is a bunch of bologna. If I’m going to play, I’m going to play to win.

Competition, in and of itself, is not sinful. The Apostle Paul even taught spiritual lessons through the illustration of competitive sports, but he never condemned the idea of healthy competition.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 1 Corinthians 9:24

As believers our competition is never with one another, but with the world, the flesh, and the devil. In fact, it is obtaining victory over these three areas for which we run to win.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in thigh places. Ephesians 6:12

However, I’m afraid that instead of competing against the influences of our world, the weaknesses of our flesh, and the temptations of our enemy (Satan), we have shifted our competitiveness toward other believers. Instead of having victory over that which we should compete against, we are being defeated spiritually, mentally, and emotionally because of an inner addiction to “out-do” or “one-up” someone else.

Unfortunately, not only have I battled this sinful competitiveness, but I see it far too often among faithful Christians and ministry leaders. By the way, it should not surprise us to see competitiveness among today’s church leaders when the disciples themselves were so consumed with who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom of God.

Competitiveness turns sinful when, out of pride, we aspire to be the greatest.

I grow weary of the competitive spirit that exist among ministry leaders. A mentality to be greater than everyone else pervades a lot of what we do. If a church down the road starts a youth conference, we’ll start one that’s better. If Pastor “so and so” tweets a catchy statement, I’ll tweet one better. If this church in town has a big bus ministry, we’ll have one bigger. You get the idea! This mentality has even affected the way we interact with ministry leaders. How many times have we stereotyped co-laborers because they didn’t attend the college that we did? A stereotype that is birthed out of ministry competitiveness.

The problem with competitiveness is that it leads to a series of spiritual failures. Think about three of them.

First of all, it results in jealousy when others have accomplished what we have not. One sure sign of a competitive spirit is how you feel when someone else is recognized for their achievements. Are you jealous when you weren’t honored in the meeting, invited to speak on that platform, or written up in that national paper? What about when the other church in town is growing faster than yours? Jealousy over others is a great indicator that we are competing against the wrong things.

Secondly, it results in a critical spirit as we attempt to find fault in other’s successes. We’ve all done it. When the church down the road baptizes more than us, has greater attendances, or produces more fruit we automatically assume they’ve compromised in some area to get that kind of success. Instead of celebrating in their successes we attempt to find fault in why they have succeeded. For nothing good can come out of Nazareth, right?

Thirdly, it results in emptiness when we discover winning doesn’t produce true self-worth. Go ahead. Focus your ministry on competing with other colleges, other churches, other pastors, and other bloggers. But in the end, when you have done what you wanted to do – WIN – you’ll sit back in your office and feel the same emptiness you felt before. Your true worth is not found in how many twitter followers you have, how many people retweet you, or how many invites you get to speak. True worth is found in the fact that God loves me, God accepts me, and God is for me!

Though our flesh is constantly being fueled to do bigger than they do and be better than they are, we discover from the life of Christ that true greatness comes not when we make ourselves bigger, but when we make ourselves smaller.

He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. Luke 22:26

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

Study John 3:22-36. John the Baptist avoided the temptation to compete with Jesus’ ministry by having the right mindset (denying all glory of self sufficiency), the right motive (he desired no attention for himself), and the right message (he declared one message – Christ, not himself). Don’t fall into the seductive power of competitiveness in God’s work. It’s prideful. It’s depleting. It’s never satisfying.

That no one of you be puffed up for one against another. 1 Corinthians 4:6-7

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves withs one that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12-13

What do you think? Do you observe ministry competitiveness? How do we overcome it? 

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