If you grew up in America, as I did, you probably understand what I mean when I say that we live in a “competitive society.” We are the culture that brought you reality TV, multi-million dollar televised poker tournaments, competitive eating, and fantasy sports. From Michael Jordan to Donald Trump to the next American Idol to (before Thanksgiving ’09) Tiger Woods, our cultural icons are those who have the talent and the discipline to WIN. We don’t celebrate losers, we celebrate winners. And no matter who you really are, what you’ve done or do, or what the true content of your character may actually be, winning makes it all OK (see Kobe Bryant or Tiger Woods after Thanksgiving ’11).
But what about the church? Has our competitive society done anything to the church? How has it affected those who follow Christ and make up what Scripture calls “His bride?”
I think those of us who have been connected to the church for any number of hours would agree that what James wrote 1900+ years ago is still true of the church today:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
What’s the problem with this? Is there are a problem? So what if churches compete for the same recycled group of hop-scotch Christians? Is it an issue that pastors slip into rivalries? Is competition and comparison in the body of Christ really wrong? Why does it matter that in many large churches pastors on the same staff undercut each other while they compete for resources? Does it matter that church members look down on each other and seek advantages over one another? Is wanting the solo such a big deal? Is seeking the limelight really that destructive? Is wanting the best seat, the most prestige, the applause, or recognition and admiration within the Christian community really a distraction from the mission of God? Why not break into the reality TV market with “America’s Next Top Christian?” Would that really be a problem for the church?
Yes and Yes.
Because God didn’t save us to compete with each other, he saved us to complement each other.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…