I started in ministry at age 18 back in 1990. It didn’t take long to notice a couple of peculiar trends among pastors. First, I saw that pastors were almost always excited about churches in other cities who were doing well. They’d say things like, “God is really blessing them. We should learn all we can from them. I really respect their leadership.” Second, I saw that pastors were almost always downplayed things when it came to other churches within the same city who were doing well. They’d say things like, “It’s no wonder they are getting lots of new folks; they can afford the advertising. Well, they’re growing because they were the first ones to have a contemporary service.” Sadly, pastors would sometimes move from downplay to derogatory. I’d hear them say things like, “That church doesn’t preach the truth. The people there are not really being discipled. That pastor is a control freak. That pastor has an ego the size of Texas.”
I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of living out these trends myself. It’s great that I’m happy for churches in other cities when they succeed, but it’s tragic that I don’t always rejoice when the churches in my own community succeed! If you’re honest, you’ve probably been guilty of this too.
We know this kind of attitude grieves the heart of God, so why do we act this way? Here are a few reasons that I can think of:
We get territorial // Too often we have the small mindset that other churches are encroaching on our turf. Let’s get really honest for a moment: is your church reaching everyone in your city? How about everyone in your zip code? Okay, how about in your church’s neighborhood? Is there any legitimate reason to think that there are not enough people in your community to reach?
Territorial behavior reveals several unsettling things about us. First, it reveals that we are thinking more about our own kingdom than God’s Kingdom. Second, it reveals that we think people belong to us and not to God. Third, it reveals that we think the harvest is not plentiful.
Pastors, let us all repent of our territorial thinking.
We become jealous // Imagine how you’d feel if the person you like least in the world suddenly started driving your dream car. How would you feel? Even if you already have your dream car, do you want to see that awful person driving the same kind of car? That might be enough to make you trade your dream car for something else. Similar feelings often arise between pastors.
Admit it: you don’t like some of the pastors in your community. There are certainly other pastors in my community I don’t particularly like. I can be pretty okay with their churches growing as long as mine is too. But I feel a twinge of frustration when their churches grow and mine doesn’t. That’s jealousy. On the other hand, when my church is growing, but one of my un-liked counterparts is leading a church that’s stalled, I feel kinda good. That’s also jealousy.
How does it make Jesus feel when I act or think in these ways? Heartbroken. Who am I to curse what He blesses? Who am I to stand in judgement over my fellow pastors?
Pastors, let us all repent of our jealousy of other churches.
We feel insecure // There’s a little voice inside all of us that speaks when we see other pastors succeeding. That little voice says, “You can’t do that. You’ll never succeed. You’re not smart enough. You’re not talented enough. You’re not a good enough leader.”
One of the hardest things for us to deal with as pastors is our own insecurity. Maybe it’s because we try to present a sense of confidence so often. After all we need to look confident when we are speaking to a group of people, counseling people, leading staff members, leading elder meetings, visiting people in the hospital and praying for lunch in front of the rotary club. Maybe we fein confidence so often that we begin to buy our own press. Whatever the cause, we have to stop and face our insecurities.
Back in 1989 I loved playing Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on my Nintendo Entertainment System. I remember that right before fighting the final boss, your character’s shadow suddenly starts attacking you. For me, it was harder to defeat my shadow than it was for me to defeat the final enemy. In fact, I found the final enemy pretty easy compared to my shadow. What a great metaphor for ministry!
Pastors, we must face our shadows! We must look deep within ourselves at the uncomfortable, ugly parts of ourselves and deal with them. God has given us the power to defeat our shadows, but we must face them. Part of facing your shadow is recognizing your insecurities and overcoming them. The Lord is in you and His power is available to overcome your insecurities. You CAN do whatever God calls you to accomplish because HE will empower you. Do not compare yourself to others. Just be the person God is calling you to be and strive to do what He is calling you to do. Face your shadow. Believe the best. Overcome in the power of Christ.
Pastors, let us all repent of giving in to our insecurities.
We are sinful // The root of everything mentioned in this post is one thing: sin. You and I are sinners, but Christ has forgiven us and has empowered us to overcome. The reason we don’t thrill to hear about how the church across town is growing is because we are sinful beings. In fact, the more of a hold sin has on us, the more skewed our perspective will be. I find that when I am attentive toward living a godly life and letting Christ overcome my sin, my attitude toward other churches is better. The opposite is true for me as well; the less attentive in keeping sin from my life, the worse my attitude becomes.
Pastors, let us all repent of the sin in our lives.
Let’s not grieve God’s heart by rooting against his Bride. Let’s not divide the body of Christ by wishing ill toward any other part of it. Let’s not split the family of God by jockeying for position against our brothers and sisters. Sibling rivalry has no place among pastors and churches. Let’s lead well, by rooting for each other and rejoicing when and wherever we see a victory for Christ!