Last week I met with our local ministerial association. The discussion came up about people leaving one church to join a cooler, younger, better church and the sense of competition that the pastors in the room felt. As pastors we fight jealousy as we see good people leave our church to join another one. We all know that church consumerism is a wrongful attitude, but as much as you preach covenant over consumerism, there are still those who will leave in search of something fresher, cooler, newer and better. When good people leave for something better, how do we fight the competitive spirit and pastoral jealousy?
Learn from other churches
Instead of viewing other churches as the bad guys stealing your sheep, maybe there are some things we should learn from them. Typically we like to cast the growing church as shallow and entertainment-driven. They’ve got a magnetic personality, but not the commitment and depth that we do. We love to view the departed as shallow and consumer-driven. Maybe some of this is true. Maybe it’s not. But we need a posture of learning from other churches. What do they do well? What innovations have they come up with? Instead of being jealous, be attentive and see what you can learn.
Pray for other churches
It’s hard to view other churches negatively when we both privately and corporately are praying for other pastors and churches. This sends the message that other churches in our community are not enemies or competitors, but are teammates and allies. We want them to grow and to flourish. We want other churches to do well. We pray for their growth and depth and health and unity. I need to do a better job of this.
Check your own heart
We easily are tempted to build our identity on our success and fame as a pastor. We define ourselves by how many people come to hear us preach, our sermon downloads and twitter followers. We come to believe that God finds worth in us when we succeed. When we operate out of this performance-based mindset, we easily are threatened by other’s success. If the other church is bigger and growing faster, that means that God loves them more and me less. If I’m not the best, I’m not loved most. This prevalent mindset is contra the gospel. The gospel proclaims to us that our relationship and status with God is not resting on our successes or our failures, but on his generous grace.
Pastor: do you believe that if your church grew to 10,000 that God would love you any more? Do you believe that if your church shrank and shut down that God would love you any less? Why do you believe that God’s love and acceptance of you is contingent on your job performance rather than on Christ’s job performance? Return and believe the gospel!
Pastors, let’s kill the jealousy and competition and partner in the gospel. Shepherd the flock of God that is among you.