This one has been a long time simmering in the back of my heart and mind. And honestly, I try to ignore and wish away this ugly truth. It goes against everything that Jesus spoke of; it has no benefit to the advancement of the gospel; and it creates hypocrisy in our churches that non-believers notice.
So… pretty much… all negative. (And the inner peacekeeper in me screams, “Why can’t we just all get along????”)
I noticed it when I was just six years old, playing out in the yard with a neighbor boy. We were seriously discussing our churches (which is hilarious when remembering our age at the time) and I started to realize something strange. Anytime I mentioned something at our church, he would mention something better at his church. And when he mentioned something different at his church, I felt the need (and followed through on it) to one up him with something equally cool or more different at my church. I left that conversation feeling disappointed in myself; I still wish I could go back and change the way I talked with him. It was competition… plain and simple. And I knew (even at that young age) that we should have been encouraging each other in our differences instead of competing with each other.
Through our ministries, my Hubs and I have watched and regrettably listened as people use their own churches to compete against each other.
“We have an amazing children’s program! Seriously. I don’t know why families in our town go anywhere else!”
“That church only sings hymns. They are so out of touch with the rest of our society.”
“I could never attend a church that used drums in their worship.”
“We left our previous church because they had decided to do another building program. I mean… why? Aren’t they taking enough of our money?”
“That church is way too big. I like for my kids to sit with me and not feel judged when they are antsy during service.”
These comments make my heart ache. Like almost a depressing ache. Oh… and people… it gets worse. It gets worse when ministers, elders and leaders in churches speak these words or let their actions portray this to others. That breaks my heart. It makes me physically weak and pushes me to my knees. I don’t understand it.
I do understand that as humans, we feel the need to compete with each other: in our jobs, our friendships, our athletics, how we raise our children… But I wonder, is this what God created us for? From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus created a team (12 disciples). And then, at his ascension, he sent his team out to do ministry all over the world (while still working together.) They didn’t get it right all the time– (check out the book of Acts to see this in action)– but they tried to work together as best as they could.
I think a lot of the time, churches today get this wrong. We compete with each other: for people (most of them already believers), for fame (should we ever be seeking this?), for money (but it’s God’s money), for kids (create the best kids program in town), for teens (provide tons of food, games and loud music)… the list goes on and on. What I don’t understand is why we can’t all work together to accomplish the goal of Christ TOGETHER. Do we not understand how much more effective we would all be if we would be there to love and support each other as fellow churches?
At Thrive, we strive to work together with other churches. If someone comes through our doors and doesn’t click with Thrive- we support them in finding another Bible-teaching church that will push them in their walk with Christ that we couldn’t. We would rather them leave Thrive than never serve or use their gifts that God created them to use.
The Body of Christ
When reading through the book of 1 Corinthians, I have always loved chapter 12. The section I’m gonna focus on starts in verse 12:
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.
29 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? 30 Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! 31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
Guys. Girls. What if the apostle Paul wasn’t just referring to a single body of believers (a single church) here. What if he was referring to the ENTIRE BODY of believers. Every church. Every nation. Everywhere. If we read this like that– I wonder if we would start acting as if we are on the same team instead of competing teams.
Why can’t we as churches work together to be the body of Christ to those around us who don’t know Christ? If one church has a need, why is it so hard for another church in the area to step in and help fill that need? Why do we always feel the need to compete with other churches? And again I think, “Why can’t we just all get along????”