Grouchiness about other pastors’ churches? Their size? Their coolness? The number of conversions they see? Their creativity in programming, marketing, sermons? Nope. Not me. Never. I promise.
I’m always kingdom-minded and thankful for the work that God is doing in and through other churches. God tells us to “rejoice always” (1 Thes. 5:16). So, I’m just doing my part.
Truth be told, this has been a struggle. I’ve struggled to find joy in what God is doing in neighboring churches. I’ve often found it difficult to be grateful when God blesses the church down the road more than He apparently blesses mine. I know that sounds deeply unspiritual and ungodly. And my defense cannot be, “this is just where I am,” because where I am at times (and you too) is not a God-honoring posture.
In recent years, I’ve grown less and less grouchy about what God is doing in other churches and more joyful and thankful for the gospel work that is taking place around me. How has this happened? Here are several truths or principles that have helped me be a more secure, kingdom-minded pastor:
- Identity. I am much more secure in my identity as a believer. In the past, I found my satisfaction in a degree, an invitation or participation in a conference, a sermon that was a “home-run,” the number of people in service, or words of affirmation from a member or, better yet, a guest in response to a sermon. I have seen God’s grace in my life as my fulfillment is found in Jesus and not what everyone says or doesn’t say about me. Don’t get me wrong I still allow it to creep in from time-to-time but it is becoming less frequent as I rest in Jesus.
- Relationships. I build relationships with other pastors in my community. Pastors can be a territorial bunch; Baptist pastors even more so (in my opinion). This may seem counterintuitive or counter-productive as interaction with other churches may expose my struggles. But I’ve seen it as one way to fight against grouchiness or even jealousy. When I spend time with others pastors, the Spirit of God helps me see the gift of friendship in the kingdom of God and the strengths and gifting of other men.
- Diversity. I celebrate diversity. God’s kingdom is not monolithic. It looks so different, and I don’t just mean a local gathering of saints in Jakarta, Indonesia. But God’s kingdom is diverse right here in my local context of Phoenix and, even more specifically, in the Foothills of Ahwatukee. There are several men here who are gifted thinkers and leaders. And as organizational management gurus often say, “the leader casts a long shadow.” Thus, a church will in some ways (small and big) reflect their leader. Some churches will have a more innovative and creative bent; some will be more expositional in their sermon delivery; some will be more evangelistic; some will be more…you get the idea. We need them all. And we need more!
- Numbers. I regularly say that Christians are “better together.” For me, it’s not only one of our values at the church where I serve, but it also informs my perspective of my community. I realize that even if my church grew by 100%, that would leave tens of thousands of people in my immediate context that stand condemned under the wrath of God. We need more churches to engage lostness for the sake of Jesus and the glory of God. Neither my church nor yours can do it alone. I stop being grouchy and instead become thankful when I look at the magnitude of lostness in my community.