We Can’t Compete
Recently one of the youth returned awe-struck from visiting one of the larger churches in the cities. “They have two youth pastors. They have a worship pastor. They have a pastor of visitation. Why,” he exclaimed, “They have a pastor on staff for nearly everything!” Compared to the small, rural church this person has known since birth, this city church must have seemed super special. Not only did they have multiple ministers on staff, or rather because of that, this church is able to offer a great variety of services and ministries. To the Christian consumer, this plethora of choice would seem to make the city church preferable over the rural.
As a rural church minister, I’ve decided that I cannot compete with the larger churches on the consumer level. Larger churches with their greater resources will always be able to offer more and better ministries. To compete with them would be something like the local hardware store squaring off toe-to-toe against Lowes or Menards. The local owner may be able to hold off for a while based on such things as his location and convenience to his local market, but eventually those stores with the bigger resources will wear down his strength and resolve. You’ve seen it before. The little guy runs out of either money or fight, and then the bigger stores divide up that market area. This scenario will continue to play out in our churches so long as Christians approach their religion as consumers.
Pause to consider just how much a consumer mentality has affected Christian worship. We judge the worship service as good or bad based on what “we got out of it.” “That was a good service,” we tell someone, “I got a lot out of it.” Or, “I didn’t care for that service. I didn’t get very much out of it.” Our very concept of church has been corrupted in this manner. We are in trouble when worship becomes more something we hear than something that we DO. For far too many people, church has become someplace to which we GO rather than the original intention of the Church as a group of Christ-followers called out from the world and gathering together for service and worship.
You see, truth be told, Jesus never told us to go into all the world and make consumers. His mandate was to make disciples. Disciples, in the Bible, are called many things, but never called to be consumers. Instead, believers are called to be priests of Jesus’ kingdom, ministers of grace and diverse members of a Body who share the unique gifts for the benefit of one another. In fact that phrase, one another, is used scores of time in the New Testament calling the Church to cooperation in unified service.
With all this in mind, I have concluded not only that I can’t compete with the larger churches but that I shouldn’t need to. I believe that there is room in God’s Kingdom for all manner of ministries, both large and small. I further believe that true Kingdom growth occurs when our focus is on building disciples and not enlarging ministries. Sure, there’ll still be the occasional temptation toward “bigger and better,” but if that temptation is motivated more from competition than kingdom, I’ll have to stand with a firm “No” to those ideas.
What about you? In light of what’s been said, do you see yourself as more disciple or consumer of Christian things? What can you do to move away from the one and toward the other? 1 Corinthians 3 speaks to those who were “still in the flesh” and were making their decisions as consumers of religion. To those people he wrote:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV)
Praying for you all. Boasting in the Lord for your sake,