“Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’” – Luke 13:14
Are you ready?
Didn’t see that coming, did you? (Unless, of course, you’re a pastor, at which point you’re probably looking for another article to “bless your spirit….”)
How do I know pastors are competitive? If you put two pastors who don’t know each other in the same room for more than two seconds, Pastor Smith will ask Pastor Jones, “So, how’s your church doing?” This has happened to me so often I have started to avoid meeting new pastors, either from my town or especially from my denomination. Of course, it sounds like a good question. Pastor Smith is interested in the success of Pastor Jones’ church.
However, since most people are not pastors, you may not understand what Pastor Smith was really asking. He wasn’t inquiring upon the spiritual health of the church. He didn’t really care if the board and elders all got along well and supported one another in prayer and fellowship. He wasn’t interested in whether or not the youth pastor was disciplining young people to be leaders in the God’s Church. What he was really asking was this: “How many people do you have coming to your church?” Yep, too many pastors have reduced the successful spiritual state of the local church to the number of people who attend. Sigh.
Knowing this is what other pastors are fishing for, I know what the bait looks like and I don’t take it. When asked how my church is doing (which is more often than I can count), I say things like, “Wonderful! I still feel privileged to be the pastor of Journey Church.” Of course, since I didn’t bite, the other pastor will wiggle the bait a little and ask, “Are you growing?” To this I will respond, “It is amazing to watch how people are changing as they allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives!” Still, I’ve yet to be hooked. Finally, out comes THE question: “How many do you have coming to your church?” and I answer, “Every person God has sent.”
Is every pastor this competitive? Of course not. But it happens so often that I see it coming and wonder if the other pastor is really interested in how Journey Church is impacting the world, of if he is comparing his work with mine and, hoping mine is lagging behind his in numbers, feels self-satisfied.
However, as seen by the reaction of the synagogue leader to Jesus in Luke 13:14, this competitiveness isn’t limited to numbers. Pastors also don’t like it when other ministers succeed where they haven’t. Jesus just healed a woman crippled for eighteen years, so the leader must have known the woman. Now that she is healed, all he can say is, “Y’all should’ve come back tomorrow for yer healing!”
The fact is many leaders have trouble rejoicing with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15) when the spotlight isn’t shining upon “their” ministry. The synagogue leader witnessed Jesus heal the woman and the woman in turn praised God, not Jesus. Still, it didn’t happen under his ministry and his reaction shows the attitude of his heart. But I wonder: What if the synagogue leader was teaching and the woman, while he was teaching, was healed, stood up straight and started praising God? Would he have told her she should have come back tomorrow? Probably not.
The other problem I believe the synagogue leader had was believing her blessing was not his blessing. When will we learn that no blessing of God ever comes at the expense of someone else’s blessing? This is the same attitude the elder son showed towards his brother. He told his father, “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to do. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.” (Luke 15:29). The only reason we often think someone else has it better is because we don’t show gratitude for what we already have. Everything the father gave the younger son the older son already possessed!
At this point, you’re probably wondering why I know so much about competitive pastors. The simple answer is I am one. It is very difficult not to be caught up in the numbers game with all the numbers reporting we are required to turn in every month. I know it is not the intention church leadership to see pastors compete against one another, and I’m grateful for my leaders who rejoice with me at every victory, no matter how small. Still, the synagogue leader is a gentle reminder to everyone in God’s church that God has enough blessings to go around, and when one part of the body rejoices, all the people can rejoice at the wonderful things God does (Luke 13:17).