My favorite sport to watch is football, and nothing is more uninteresting to me than a blowout. The only time it is remotely satisfying is when the Steelers are whipping up on a rival or my fantasy football player is benefiting from the landslide. Other than that, bor-ing. Even when I play my brother in FIFA soccer, if one of us is whipping up on the other person (usually Jon beating me), we both lose interest quite quick and start trying to score with our goalies or slide tackle everyone into oblivion. Which actually is quite fun too.
I have always been a fan of healthy competition when it comes to sports since really, in the grand scheme of things, losing or winning a game probably won’t alter your destiny. Or at least it shouldn’t. But when it comes to relationships and the Church, I think competition is the silent killer of the unity that Christ envisioned for his community of brothers and sisters.
One of my favorite authors, Parker Palmer said this regarding competition:
Competition is the antithesis of community, an acid that can dissolve the fabric of relationships.
In competition, we focus on winning at another person’s expense. This works fine in sports since the outcome is a mere trophy, but when it comes to souls, it is devastating. A withheld compliment here, a put-down there, not sharing the good idea you have for someone else because it won’t directly benefit you, these are all devious ways that we make sure others aren’t “getting ahead” of us. Or maybe in conversation you are always trying to one-up the other person:
Other person: “I just got back from my cruise, it was great.”
You: “Oh that’s cool, I just flew to the moon the other day.”
You get the picture.
The same thing happens with churches. You hear about other churches that are growing and maybe yours isn’t. Another church has a different philosophy, focus in their ministry, or dare I say theology, and you look at them with skepticism and throw in a few snarky comments for good measure. It’s easy to get focused on your own little kingdom and forget that WE ARE WORKING TOGETHER for a much bigger purpose.
Competition is not working and it has to stop.
Both in our relationships and our churches. We must begin supporting one another, sharing each others wins, encouraging one another, dreaming with one another and giving each other the benefit of the doubt instead of skepticism. I truly believe that if we are to ever reach our full potential as the Church and individuals, we must begin collaborating instead of competing.
In Romans 8 there is a beautiful statement that gives us a great example. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We need to take this same posture that God has towards us, toward one other. We must be FOR each others lives and ministries. Imagine if your wife/husband, family, friends, community, and church truly were FOR you, who could be against you! But rarely do we find people who are truly FOR us, because individualism, perceived scarcity, and competition drown out our support for one another.
I may not succeed at it every time, but I am choosing to live a life FOR others and I hope you do to. You have a God-given dream you want to see accomplished? I am FOR you. Maybe your church is seeing many come to Christ and into community or maybe you are struggling. Either way, I am FOR you. Struggling (like the rest of us) at this thing called life? I am FOR you.
God has something unique for each of us, let’s resolve to stop competing and start cheering on one another’s lives. Our movement and our relationships will be much better off with this approach.
How to you think we break down this culture of competition and begin truly supporting one another?