Pray for Competition

January 9, 2008 by

As we pursue the unique calling that God has for each one of us individually and collectively, both as ministers and as ministries, we are foolish if we care not for competition. If you don’t want competition, you must not care enough about the people you are trying to reach. Many think that without competition they are in the perfect position to realize success. I think without competition we’re in the perfect position to never realize success because it means that no one else cares about what we care about. And if no one else is sharing the same cares I have, maybe I am caring about the wrong things.

If another church across town starts a college ministry like yours, great! It must mean college students need to be reached in your community. If the after-school program you host is busting at the seams, wouldn’t it be great to know a church nearby is also starting one?

This is not about competing with other churches for buildings, budgets or behinds. Friends, this is about competing for the hearts and minds of people that want to know, need to know and don’t know Jesus.

So who is your competition? Do you care?

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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10 Responses to “Pray for Competition”

  • Phil
    January 9, 2008

    I understand the point that you are trying to make, but I don’t think competition is the most appropriate way to discribe how churches should be working.
    We’re not in the business of competing against each other. This isn’t the same as selling a product. Aside from anything else, we’re called to ‘serve’ not to ‘sell’.
    Yes I agree that if one church has a burgeoning youth work, it would make sense to have a second one in a similar area. Not to compete with the other one though, that would mean that you’re keen to attract customes from the already successful work. Instead, it should be to make it possible to reach more youth.
    Sometimes using business language does not work. I think this is the case. We’re not in the business of competition, we should be in the service business. Meaning if two youth groups can serve more youth, then do it, don’t just do it to compete with the already successful service – you may just kill it off.

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  • Kevin
    January 9, 2008

    Brad, I totally agree with your idea of competition. It makes the world go round.
    Phil, I think an analogy might help in this instance. I’ve heard a member of the elementary ministry of my church refer to Chuck E. Cheese as their competition. Families could chose a fun pizza place or the church on Sundays. Chuck E. Cheese is their competition, not the church down the street.

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  • brad
    January 9, 2008

    I get the point of the post, but I’m with Phil on this. If we describe everything using the world’s vocabulary, then we are limited to its metaphors.
    The best case scenario here is partnership. I wrote this little thing that I put the bulletin board above my desk: “You are not in competition. You are in community.”
    Yes, it might initially be threatening that a new church or organisation is starting something similar to an existing ministry. But to me it’s entirely ridiculous that churches keep trying to build competing ministerial empires without even talking to each other. Partnership is a much more satisfying (not to mention Scripturally appropriate) model for building strength than competition.

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  • mk
    January 9, 2008

    Great post! I’ve actually went through something like this. We all just have to realize we’re working toward a common goal- reaching people for Christ!

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  • Gene Mason
    January 9, 2008

    I think competition is an awful term here. It’s a marketplace term and that in and of itself places the church on the world’s terms instead of the other way around.
    The church is not to be driven by marketplace thinking. We were meant to be profoundly different. It’s interesting that apart from a free-market economy we see the church in Acts 2 and in impoverished and persecuted nations acting more like a social institution than a business. It brings to light the question, are we to be driven by the needs of our “market” or by the Word of our God. The two, I think, are mutually exclusive.

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  • Cameron Horsburgh
    January 9, 2008

    My wife and I run an emergency welfare programme in a small town in rural Australia. This programme is effectively a food programme for the poor.
    In Australia there are very few reasons for people to need our service, but we exist as a stop gap for the exceptions. We spend a lot of our time helping people to be more responsible with the money they get. If there are problems with drug addiction, gambling, debt or some other money pit, we help people overcome those problems. Our aim is to get people to a point where they no longer need our services.
    Sometimes that means needing to get tough. If somebody comes in after gambling their money away, we might help them a couple of times, but we also know they’re not going to stop gambling while we feed them. So we have, at times, have had to tell people ‘no,’ so we can get to the core of the problem. We don’t like doing it, but sometimes we have to. This approach goes for other problems too — sometimes we have to make tough calls for people’s own good.
    Across the board our service is well respected. Government agencies respect our service and refer people to us, as do other groups. We also refer people to those groups, if that’s what’s needed. Overall the system works very well, and we have many great stories of people whose lives have been changed for the better. Many of the people in our church made their first contact with the church through this service.
    The only real problem we have is with other churches who set themselves up in competition. It’s rather difficult to help someone live responsibly when they can just get what they want elsewhere. We’re happy to work with other churches, and in some cases other churches are able to offer things we could only dream of. But most don’t want to cooperate — they want to compete. There’s no (appropriate) information sharing or anything like that.
    I often wonder what their motivations are. Sometimes I think they’re scared they’re going to lose a potential convert. Some churches have ‘welfare services’ simply to buy poor people’s affection. Other times they just seem to think they know better than us. I’m really not fussed on either count. If someone comes into the kingdom, I really don’t care which church they go to. And if somebody else disagrees with the way we’re dealing with people, we’re happy to be told we’re going about it all wrong. That’s why we’d rather cooperate.

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  • Derrick Henslee
    January 9, 2008

    Yeah, I get what you’re saying overall. However, I heard of another church pastor telling one of our pastors that we were his biggest competition. He disagreed with him saying that we’re on the same team and the world (the mall, tv, nightclubs, etc..) were our real competition. I totally agree with this.
    I think it’s time that churches stop trying to get creative ideas from other churches while trying to “one up” each other. We’re supposed to be kingdom minded with the same pursuit (to reach the world for Christ.) But….I get what you’re getting at…for the most part!

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  • Paul Kuzma
    January 9, 2008

    Yea, I gotta say I agree that competition is not the word to use when we’re referring to other churches or ministries in town. Truthfully, the word fosters and roils up too much of what we’re trying to calm down.
    In other words, the “competetive” nature of church vs. church, whose bigger than who and why is there. But we don’t need to foster that kind of culture.
    We all want partnership with one another in the end. But we’ll never get there when we have Pastors telling leaving members that “it’s slim pickings out there”, meaning you’re not gonna find a lot of effective churches. That in a city filled with them!

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  • Alastair
    January 10, 2008

    If you discover a church down the road is planning a ministry program the first thing you should be thinking is – “can we work with them on this?”
    Competition is not just a bad word to use here – it’s a terrible word. In my opinion, the total opposite to what God would want it.

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  • Steve Valenta
    February 17, 2008

    It seems like we’ve cleared up that the competition Brad was referring to was about the world competition, rather than with local churches.
    However, even at that – I still don’t think there’s any competition whatsoever. Competition? Just think about the word…
    How can we put on the same level – a fallen world (sex, drugs, nightclubs, entertainment) with an Everlasting, All Satisfying Life of Jesus Christ? How can we think these are in competition for each other. “Churches” will NEVER be able to sustain and compete with the world – it just doesn’t satisfy. But the Life of Christ – this satisfies. This Lord quenches a thirst that cannot be competed with – this Christ we have fulfills all hunger and all need. Our Lord is All things to all men.
    What we need to realize – is that we have Jesus Christ to give someone…and that we really don’t have any competition whatsoever.
    If it’s Christ being given – how really do we think there is any competition? It just doesn’t exist.
    Let’s keep in mind as well – Who is doing the building? (Matthew 16)

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