You know, one of the things I've noticed in ministry and the interconnectedness of churches is a struggle with cheering someone else's success, wanting to duplicate it, and literally being envious of it. I see this played out here in my own city as the church where I serve is smack in the middle between 2 of the largest growing Evangelical churches in America. They, along with others in the area, both have great TV telecasts, multiple Campuses, and occasionally the traveling worship/meeting experience. Oh, and did I mention the larger than life pastors/preachers/evangelists which lead these bodies of Christ?
I've decided it's truly a humbling, daunting, and IMPOSSIBLE task to try and keep up with what these churches are doing in ministry, innovation, and advancing of the Gospel. Don't get me wrong, that in NO WAY allows for laziness and defeat when it comes to getting after in your faith, ministry, and service to others. I absolutely love creativity, clever implementation, and fresh ideas. But I guess what's a little weird is when you're at conferences or just in conversations with folks and it's as though they're obsessed with what THIS church or THAT church is doing next. There's an air of jealousy, a longing for replication, and a muted sadness that THOSE things aren't going on in their current church.
God gave me some PEACE about this recently. And it came in the form of "Spring Cleaning" and my sweet wife's initiative to sort through some of our old/nasty keepsakes in the church's nursery. The goal of each church is not to keep up with each other, or replicate programs/ideas, or compete with anyone else for the same people...it's not about what's the "best" or the "nice-est"or the "coolest." Rather, when churches achieve great things for the Kingdom, when they offer unique services to specific folks, when they embrace the unique niche in the broad scale of being Jesus' hands and feet, and when God blesses them in various ways...GREAT!!! Let's applaud and celebrate what God is doing and how He's choosing to go about it.
And I'm starting to believe and understand that God opens our eyes to how He's working in other places so we can embrace the very difficult statement: "We can be better, we can do better." This simple and haunting phrase strikes me at my core, and it's got nothing to do with guilt on what I am not yet or where I am lacking. I'm actually refreshed and challenged and inspired to "get after it" for Jesus when I get snapshots of God's goodness to other places...and it's not manipulative or something, like I want Him to bless my place in the same way. I'd like to think my motives are purer than that. Rather, it's a faith step and a piece of humble pie and a realigning of my life to the way of Christ. There's no cut-n-paste formula to it.
May you applaud what God is doing at your church. May you embrace this idea of cheering for other churches as they strive to advance the Gospel in the same ways you are. May we wish the body of Christ success in all its many endeavours. And may we all learn something along the way as we walk with our Father who loves us.