It was my second pastorate and, like many pastors, I had a few nagging insecurities about other churches in town that were outstripping us in terms of head count. To compound my sense of inadequacy, one of those churches took great delight in flaunting their success, with “KOKOMO’S LARGEST SUNDAY SCHOOL” painted in large letters on their buses as they trundled around town each weekend. They were laying claim to being the best church in town. Which meant, according to their self-promoting boasts, that we weren’t the best church in town. That bothered me a little!
To make matters worse, on one Easter Sunday morning they announced an Easter egg hunt on their front lawn to attract even more kids and to no doubt become the “largest” largest Sunday school in town. “Aha!” my evil heart thought, “Now everyone will see how shallow and commercial they are.” I was convinced that my orthodox stand against trivializing the Resurrection with Easter eggs on church lawns would win the day. Then “Kokomo’s Largest Sunday School” church decided to also make that Easter “Friendship Sunday.” Which meant that their members would invite friends—some of whom were members of our church—to this Easter-egg hunting, fastest-growing church in town. To top it off, a prize would be given to the person who brought the most friends. I must admit that their competitive spirit had my spiritual britches in a bunch.
On that Easter Sunday night, before the evening service, I was getting a drink at the drinking fountain in the hallway at our church when I heard someone approaching. I stood up, no doubt with water dripping from my chin, only to be assaulted by a very intense woman.
“Pastor,” she began, “do you know how many people were at that church this morning? They had 1,500 people there. And you know what really bothers me? Some of those people were from our church. They should have been here this morning!”
I’m not always this spiritually good—especially when it comes to dealing with Easter-egg-hunting-friendship-churching competitive Christians—but I had recently been studying Philippians 1, so the Spirit immediately brought verse 18 to mind. “Wow!” I said, “Are you telling me that this morning 1,500 people in our town heard the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Doesn’t that just thrill your heart?” Needless to say that was a real “show stopper” for her.
The apostle Paul was no stranger to the rivalries and factions that crop up in church-world. Even while he is imprisoned for the gospel, he tells the Philippians that other Christians are slandering his name and seeking to profit from his incarceration by competitively seeking to outdo him. And yet Paul, in a staggering moment of humility, says that ultimately it doesn’t matter. All he cares about is that the gospel is being preached. He is nothing, and the good news of Jesus is everything!
So let’s measure our attitudes. Do you mutter when you hear news of the success of other churches or get upset when your friends go there instead of to your church? As Paul reminds us, envy and jealousy have no place in God’s kingdom. The stakes are too high for us to focus our energies on interchurch food fights and petty rivalries.
The reality is that when other biblically healthy churches grow, the kingdom grows. It’s not about “they win” and “we lose.” Rather, it’s a genuine win-win situation. Be a cheerleader for the gospel in your town!
From: Our Daily Bread
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go . . . to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1
For our wedding anniversary, my husband borrowed a tandem bike so we could enjoy a romantic adventure together. As we began to pedal on our way, I quickly realized that as the rider on the back my vision of the road ahead was eclipsed by my husband’s broad shoulders. Also, my handlebars were fixed; they didn’t affect the steering of our bike. Only the front handlebars determined our direction; mine served merely as support for my upper body. I had the choice to either be frustrated by my lack of control or to embrace the journey and trust Mike would guide us safely on our route.
When God asked Abram to leave his homeland and family, He didn’t offer much information concerning the destination. No geographic coordinates. No description of the new land or its natural resources. Not even an indication of how long it would take to get there. God simply gave the instruction to “go” to the land He would show him. Abram’s obedience to God’s instruction, despite lacking the details most humans crave, is credited to him as faith (Heb. 11:8).
If we find ourselves grappling with uncertainty or a lack of control in our lives, let’s seek to adopt Abram’s example of following and trusting God. The Lord will steer us well.
Help me, Lord, to trust You with the uncertainty in my life.
God can be trusted to guide us.
Prayer on an Airplane
From: Our Daily Journey
“Could you pray for us?” asked the French woman sitting next to me on the airplane. We were experiencing violent turbulence. Just minutes earlier this med student and I had been having a lively discussion about God and science. With my broken French and her broken English, I had used a Chinese-English pamphlet to share the good news about Jesus with her. To my new friend, the gospel message seemed like a fairy tale; but when our airplane began to dip and shake, her inclination was to ask God for help, allowing me the opportunity to share my faith and pray with her.
Sharing the good news is a great privilege. In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul describes his passion for sharing God’s plan to rescue people from the effects of sin and spiritual death through faith in Jesus (Romans 1:15-17). He was not at all ashamed; rather, he was compelled to share the gospel.
On another occasion, Paul was in the public square in Athens speaking “to all who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). As a result, he was asked by the high council of the city to tell them about this new teaching. This gave him the amazing opportunity to share with those who believed in many gods about “the Lord of heaven and earth, [who] doesn’t live in man-made temples and . . . gives life and breath to everything” (Acts 17:24-25).
Followers of Jesus today continue to have the privilege and challenge to share His good news with those they meet (1 Peter 3:15). At times, as with the woman on my flight, people may even call out to us for spiritual help. May we prayerfully and intentionally look for God-provided bridges to the gospel in everyday situations. As we listen to those around us and carefully take in their stories, God will open doors for us to share His good news.