I don’t know how many other pastors struggle with this particular problem…and I sure haven’t heard any speak about it much. Perhaps it’s an understood problem and therefore a taboo thing to bring up…but I can’t help it. I think I need to expose a serious problem in my life…my heart…my soul…my ministry. I need to expose it because if I don’t, then like black mold that grows and reproduces in the darkness…it will simply become a problem larger than I can deal with. It will take over. It will rule my life and my ministry. So here goes: I am going to tell you what’s wrong with any church but my own. I’m going to explain to you why I believe all other churches aren’t good enough. I’m going to tell you why I don’t like your church…whether your the pastor or the pew-sitter.
There are a couple of very large churches in our region. (Ours is not one of them, if you haven’t picked up on that before.) One of them is pretty close to us and is actually expanding closer into our “territory.” When I heard about the beginnings of this project, I was so against it. I told everyone that the reason they wanted to do this was because they were just trying to get bigger and bigger and they didn’t really care about people. Another large church close to us has an outreach program for a specific type of need in people’s lives. They send us information and tell us that we should send our people to them for ministry of a certain type. And yet another one feels especially lead to work towards reaching the kids in our end of the county. They send us invitations frequently and encourage us to be a part. Let me now say that I have never really reached out to the leadership of these churches regarding their efforts. I’ve promised that we would be praying for their efforts and we would look for opportunities to plug in or send people their way. If I’m totally honest…BIG. FAT. LIES.
Here’s the truth of the matter for me: I don’t like to send my people to your church. It’s not because I’m worried that they are going to be taught a false Gospel, and it’s not because I think there’s something wrong with the program. It’s because I’ve discovered something ugly within myself. I don’t like your church. I don’t like other pastors. I don’t like other preachers. I don’t like other bloggers. I don’t like anyone that I see as “competition.” (I said I don’t like other pastors…and that’s true…if they have a larger church/following/paycheck and so on.)
This is a major problem within church culture. I believe that there are many of us that feel the same way but we wouldn’t dare say it. Perhaps I’m wrong to let this cat out of the bag, but I believe that none of this will come as a shock to anyone who reads it. I was dealing with someone recently that needed some help far outside of my abilities. I was able to help find some resources and the process of healing began. This began a time of self reflection, prayer, and study for them that brought them to the painful conclusion that they needed to go elsewhere. They weren’t upset with us or anything of that nature. They simply believed that God was moving them. He didn’t tell them why He was moving them, nor did He explain it to me. He does that. He’s God. He has license. When they spoke to me about it, I pushed back seriously. I made them feel like if they did this, then they would be out of God’s will and essentially heading in a sinful or selfish direction. We concluded our conversation that day…and I felt so bad. I wasn’t sure why…but I felt really bad.
Several hours went by…and the Holy Spirit moved on my heart. He made me aware of the reality that I had not one time considered what He wanted or what was best for them. I hate when He does that. It takes away from my ability to look at other churches as the enemy or the competition…but more on that in minute. As soon as I could, I contacted them and asked for their forgiveness. I confessed that I had been selfish and not at all concerned about their best interests. I then said the thing I hate to say. I said, “If God is leading you elsewhere, then you should go and go with all your strength.” I told them to get involved and they would have my full endorsement. They did just that. I’m sooo, soooo, sooooooo proud of what I see God doing in them.
I wish the story ended there because it makes me sound more spiritual and mature. The truth is…I easily move back into the mode of, “Why couldn’t they stay here and do that, God?” I quickly begin to wallow in self-pity.
Now here is the worst part: I find myself resenting the churches around me because I let myself think of them as competitors instead of teammates. The only reason I have ever had for not liking your church, your pastor, your whomever…is that I see them as someone I am working against instead of working with…and that makes me not like them. I don’t like them because I’m jealous. I’m jealous because they have more whatever than I do (if that’s even true). I’m jealous of them because I’m looking at myself and what I feel like I deserve and not at God and what He’s doing through them.
A lot of this is because I have a wrong view of people. They are God’s people. All of them. Not mine. We’ve got to work together. We are all on the same team. We have the same Coach, and He is the One calling the plays. He moves players around for His purposes…not for my scoring opportunities. I need to celebrate with them. If I can’t accept that…well…I don’t even deserve a place on the bench…I need to be out of the league.
Pray for each other. Pray for me. Let me know how I can pray for you. Let’s work together. In truth, we are one church. Period.
*Image taken from: http://static.thefrisky.com/uploads/2010/04/29/envy_m.jpg