September 28, 2012

Mistakes in Ministry: Comparison & Competition

I'm just going to lay it all out there, but I have to warn you that it's pretty gross. I've shared my attempts at performance and how I've isolated myself, but this. This mistake I've made in ministry is gangrene-like in its effects, profoundly ugly, and, frankly, deeply shameful.
In the same pride that has led to my performance and self-isolation, I have also had a heart of competition toward other women, churches, church plants, pastors, and pastors' wives. When I lived in my bootstrap religion, my heart gave birth to a two-headed monster of comparison and competition. I couldn't have articulated it at the time, but I made ministry about me and only about me. Me, me, me.

Obviously, this is a huge problem on multiple levels. At the time that God revealed this sin-stained part of my heart, I served alongside other ministry wives, and we served at a church alongside other thriving churches. My need to be liked above others or respected above others caused division, isolation, and confusion. I could hardly focus on anything other than where I stood with people and how that compared with others. It hindered my husband's ministry and, at times, the ministry of the women I served alongside. I fell into gossip, even though it was just with my husband, and bitterness. I couldn't see or be happy about the growth of God's kingdom; I was only happy when my kingdom appeared strong and favored before men.

But this it not the way of grace, which I learned through brokenness and much repentance before God. I knew it would take God's tilling up the hard ground of my heart, thoughts, and habits, but His grace motivated me. I wanted to learn to offer grace to others just as He had offered grace to me. I had to apologize to people and deal with the bitterness that I had allowed into my life.

Sisters, comparison and competition are not okay for God's children. Those heart attitudes and resulting sinful behaviors are those of an orphan without a loving Father to provide perfectly for her every need or One who does not give gifts to all of His children. When we compare and compete, we tell lies about our Father. It is also a shrewd tactic of the enemy because our competition with one another turns outsiders away from the gospel.

The only way we can kill our proclivity for comparison and competition is to fully know that the ministry we do is about God and about building His kingdom. We are all on a level playing field, although God sometimes chooses to use people and their gifts differently. A heart of grace understands this. A heart of grace is able to cheer for others, rejoice in their victories, and pray for their good. A heart of grace trusts God enough to not have to fight to be seen or heard or understood or acknowledged. A heart of grace knows her identity, approval, and very beating come from Him.

He is enough, so she is enough. He gives enough, so she has enough.

Do you struggle with comparison and competition with others? How do you think God wants you to put those to death in your life?