I am an avid sports fan, particularly if my children are playing in the game! My children could be playing in the state basketball championship, the neighborhood swim meet, or a chess game at school, and I’d be the most vocal fan on the sidelines cheering them on. (Just ask my husband!) There’s no doubt I enjoy a good competition. Competition can be a healthy part of life, if we allow it to push us to excel and do our best. However, competition can be a hindrance in ministry, if we don’t keep it in check, and keep our motives pure. No, I’m not talking about a friendly competition of boys vs. girls at summer youth camp. I’m talking about the concealed jealousy that other ministries are growing faster, other churches are doing more, other pastors are more eloquent speakers, etc., that fuels an ugly competition!
Have you ever looked at another church, class, choir, or other ministry platform and wondered why they seem to be doing so well? What do they have that I don’t? Why does his/her ministry seem to be so blessed? Sure, we will likely never voice those things aloud, but we wonder them nonetheless. And that competitive spirit will make us behave like 10-year-old children instead of God-fearing Jesus lovers whose sole purpose is seeing the lost saved. So, what do you do if you find yourself struggling with a competitive spirit or jealousy in ministry? Here are a few tips:
1. Recognize that you bring unique gifts, skills, and talents to the table. God gave you abilities that are a valuable piece of accomplishing Kingdom work. However, if we aren’t careful, instead of praising God for the valuable gifts He has given to us, we can choose to focus on the gifts he has given another person, and ask him why we dont’ have those same gifts.
2. Understand there are different seasons and different reasons. We may never fully comprehend God’s plan for our ministry, but trust that there is a plan. Yes, there may be another church growing faster than yours, or another Bible study flourishing in a different way than yours, but what God has called you to is no less significant. If one soul is saved because you have been faithful to your calling, then it has been worth it! Philippians 1:12 says, “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped me spread the Good news.” Paul was in prison when he was writing this letter! And yet, he understood that God’s positioning allowed him to minister to people in prison that may have never heard of Jesus otherwise. Wow, that we could all have that perspective of God’s timing and purposes. Focus on the blessing of being used by God.
3. Remember that God’s purpose is greater than our agenda. Everywhere, everyday, there are people that don’t know the good news of Jesus Christ. They feel alone, forgotten. They are lost and hurting. Paul writes about those whose motivation are jealousy or rivalry in Philippians 1:15. But look what he writes in 1:18, “But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.” God can use a rock! He chose to use us! Let us rejoice in knowing that he can use us all in a variety of ways.
4. Check your motive. Sometimes, what began with a pure motive morphs into something else. Satan is a masterful deceiver. He can and will using ANYTHING to separate and divide. Why wouldn’t he use ministry? Sometimes, the reason we launch a ministry or become involved in service started from a pure heart, but over time, we allowed a competitive spirit to take us on a ride that was left unchecked. Ask yourself, Why am I motivated to serve in the capacity I serve in ministry? Is my heart pure that I want others to know the Lord and grow in their walk with him? Is my motive to serve the poor and hurting, completely unconcerned of who gets the credit?
5. Celebrate others’ victories. When you see a church grow or a Bible study flourish, rejoice with them as a fellow believer, that they are winning souls for Christ. If you are struggling with competition, this may be hard. But commit in your mind that any time you think of the ministry in a competitive way you will stop and praise God in prayer for how he’s growing his Kingdom. The more you practice celebrating other’s victories, the more natural it will become.
May we all know that we have an important role to play, that God has plans to use us to accomplish his will. And may we all celebrate with one another the victories of making Jesus more famous every day!
Jennifer Maggio is a mother of three, author, national speaker, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about encouraging hurting women and single parents. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.