Competition in the Kingdom ~ Pastor’s, Parking Spaces, and Privilege

I’d like to let you in to the secret world of “professional ministry”. Want to know the number one question that comes up between pastors? No it’s not, “How has God been faithful to you?” and it’s not even “Are things busy?”

The number one question that comes up in the beginning of most pastoral first meetings is this: “How big is your church?”

Now it doesn’t come up right away but often near the beginning of a first conversation when pastors meet. They ask where the church is located, what denomination, and then eventually try to feel out the size of the church. While it might be unintentional, what is often perceived is that if your church is large, you’re doing well. And if your church isn’t large that maybe you’re not as successful.

But here is the problem with that perspective, and why it matters for you even if you’re not a pastor.

First off, we need to remember that the church belongs to God, and not to a pastor anyway. What this means is that we don’t own what we are called to shepherd and serve. Secondly, size doesn’t mean you are being successful. Being successful means being faithful. And both of these two principles are true in any profession, role, or calling. We do not own what we have been given, and being successful has nothing to do with size, profit margin increase, new promotions, bigger houses, or better parking spaces. Being successful is about being faithful to what God has called you to do.

So if God has called you to be faithful in raising you kids, do it to the best of your ability. Who cares if your neighbours’ kids get better grades. Focus on being faithful. If God has called you to start a business, who cares if your MBA friend has launched one bigger and faster. Focus on being faithful to your calling. And if the pastor down the street has a bigger church, God bless it, because your calling isn’t to be large, it’s to be faithful.

In essence, in God’s Kingdom our callings don’t need to compete. Asking the question who will be the greatest in the kingdom – isn’t a kingdom question. Because in God’s Kingdom our different callings don’t compete with one another, they complement and complete God’s plan.

I learned this from my son. We were racing around the house, and this time I won. He started dancing all around and said “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, you win…Daddy I win too! You first and I’m first. We’re all first”.  This is maybe something Christians, and pastors in particular, should learn. We don’t need to compete, in Christ we’re all first…

Keeping Up with the Jones’

Ever heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”? I’m not sure how to correctly spell Jones-es. But my guess is that the Jones’ do and would correct my spelling…

Because isn’t that the point about that phrase? That around us are these people with perfect put together lives, lawns, children, and even grammar? These are the people who are always smiling and life seems to just go well for them. And secretly, many of us try to keep up with them, or just hope our lives would be like them. While this is a struggle for many of us on a personal level, it becomes even more difficult on a spiritual level.

Because I believe we often base our hope for God’s involvement in our lives, on our present reality. Meaning that if our lives are a bit of a mess we don’t expect God to change things that much. While we might not outwardly say it, we feel it. We think that God might answer the prayer of the Jones’ because they pray everyday, they give to the church, their kids are perfect, and their lives are put together. Sure God would show up in their always perfectly clean life, but it is less likely in our messy lives.

After many years of listening, I hear these thoughts so often. They are objections to God’s involvement in our lives because… “I did this….” “I don’t deserve God because…” “That might work for some but I’m just…”

So we don’t hope, we don’t expect God to show up, and we struggle. We know that God answers prayers for parking spaces for the Jones’ but when we’re drowning in debt he seems far away.

Well this Sunday I want to challenge that thought. I want to challenge that belief because it’s not true, and it’s not biblical. This Sunday I want to discover how God loves to show up in a mess, and we’ll discover how in the midst of family drama, division, hurt feelings, rejection, and mess, Jesus shows up. I think that’s worth discovering because if your at all like me, my life has some mess in it. But the beautiful thing is that is exactly where Jesus wants to show up…