I recently read an article that stated, "When churches compete, everyone wins." That got my attention.
The article states in order to pursue excellence, we need to be competing against one another in a "holy" way. The author goes on to say Jesus would be pleased with us trying to out-do one another for God's glory.
I have serious problems with this thesis.
Scripture refers to the church as the body of Christ. All persons who have chosen to follow Christ are members of this body, regardless of which particular local church one might attend. Paul talks about this body of believers by stating each person who is a follower of Jesus has been given a specific spiritual gift, talent and ability that, when used, benefits the entire body. When each person is using his gift, the body functions properly and God's purposes are better fulfilled.
Paul counsels us each member of the body is important, and goes so far as to say you can't say to any part it is not necessary. All of the parts are necessary and important for the whole body to function.
Using Paul's imagery, I wonder what Paul would say about different parts of the body competing with one another. Can you imagine if your lungs suddenly started a competition to see which one could pump the most air? I don't think that would be beneficial for the body, and I don't think Paul would think that was a good idea either.
When Jesus sends out 70 disciples in Luke 10, he sends them out to make disciples. Can you imagine Jesus saying there was going to be a competition for who can get the most converts? No way. Instead he sent them out in teams of two in order to work together. They all were focused on the same goal -- making disciples.
As a whole, most churches, if we are honest, are guilty of making it more about competition rather than cooperation. I think Jesus would disapprove, and I know we can do better.
The argument is made, however, that by competing, we raise our game and therefore do things with excellence. I am troubled by this as well, because when we are searching for "excellence," we often look to the right and to the left to see how we measure up to others. This in itself takes the focus off of the one person we are to be focusing on -- Jesus.
We need to keep our eyes focused on Christ and do everything we do as unto him. Every time we sing, preach, serve, give or do anything as a church or as an individual, it should be done to the best of our ability. Not because there's a church down the road that might do it better, but because we are called to do the best we can for the Lord.
If our motive is truly just to have the best praise band in town or the largest number of people in the pews each week, then I think we need to re-evaluate our vision. It's not a bad thing to have a good band or a lot of people in church. Where our intentions go awry is when we focus more on beating our neighbors and less about serving our maker.
Kevin Daniels is pastor at Hays Christian Church, hayschristianchurch.org, located at 22nd and Marshall Road. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.