Allow me a brief moment to stand behind the pulpit and give a short message. Having been on the mission field basically my entire life, I have seen many things which cause churches and missionaries to be unsuccessful in ministry. One thing which I find to be one of the most severe problems which not only affects individual church growth, but also the growth of the entire Body of Christ is that of competition.
Theologically there are no grounds for competition. The Bible says that we are all part of one body with one head and that is Jesus Christ. No one gets divine brownie points for having a bigger church, or smaller church, or chairing the most important committee in the church. You don’t even get divine brownie points for belonging to the biggest denomination or most famous fellowship of churches. You only get heavenly credit when you obey what Jesus wants you to do and live the life he expects.
We were created to serve God. God is the only one who deserves and should expect credit. Do you remember that old song “to God be the glory”? It’s Biblical! In missions, nearly every missionary I know has one main objective… To see people come to Christ. Yet often, to be honest, it is their hidden agenda’s which drive their ministry… Those hidden agenda’s don’t sound very spiritual, so they often mask it with some other name. Often the real hidden agenda is “so that I will be famous”, or “so that my denomination will recognize me”, or “so that I can control my own church and lead them the way I want them to go”, even that “my church would grow big and that other church down the road would die.” (See I told you they didn’t sound spiritual.)
Many times people will directly go against Biblical teaching and brush it off by saying, “well. . that’s our church/ organization policy.” The problem is that all these hidden agenda’s actually deter from the divine goal of winning the world to Christ. I have seen many ministers become infuriated over a “convert” to their Baptist church, joining a foursquare church (and vice versa). In heaven, I believe that Jesus is denominationally blind; otherwise he would have to divide heaven according to our own man-made denominational structures so that we wouldn’t spend all our time in heaven preaching against each other.
I have had plenty of churches say they “believe in me and want to support our ministry… But I was not the member of the right church, so they could not support me financially! Too bad for me.” No… too bad for you… for missing the point in what the Body of Christ is really about! It isn’t a competition! We are all in this race together, no matter where we go to church on Sunday and no matter what country we live in. 1 Corinthians 12:24-26 says about the Body of Christ, “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
Does the lack of food for Christians in Cambodia matter to the church in Shellsburg, Iowa?. . . Yes! Does the isolation and lack of training of the church in the Philippines matter to the mega church in Dallas, Texas? It should! Does the decline of one denomination’s churches concern the fast growing churches of another denomination? It should. It’s not a race to see who can get to heaven with the most certificates, Sunday attendance records, or largest retirement package. In our training ministry, we have trained thousands who have gone to do great things and start hundreds of churches. They have done so at great expense to us and those who support us, yet sometimes they turn around and criticize us for their own benefit. The joy for me is to see our graduates go on and be successful in what God had called them to do. Some are denominational presidents, some are heads of Christian organizations, hundreds are pastors, church planters and evangelists and they come from so many denominations that I don’t even bother to count them. Never once have I ever asked anyone that studied with us to report to me… they don’t answer to me, they answer to God. I just want to help to equip people to serve God better and more faithfully, without benefiting off the work of others.
I love Paul’s “mission statement” in Romans 15:20 which says, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” Paul was not about competition, and neither do I want to try to compete with others. I only want to be obedient to what God calls me to do in helping to equip others who he has called. Rather than viewing other believers, churches, ministries as competition, take a biblical approach and see them as partners working for the glory of God.