Shoulder to Shoulder, Face to Face: Overcoming Competition in Ministry

“We were all sitting in a circle, and they asked us to go around and share how many people we had at our Easter Sunday Services,” he looked down at this hands as he shared. “There has to be a way church planters and pastors can celebrate the work God is doing without it feeling like a competition.”

I keep replaying this conversation with a Kansas City pastor from last week. It haunts me.

There’s nothing more poisonous to community than competition, and it manages to creep into every relational sphere of our lives. We see it at work, in our families, in our friendships, and sadly even in the church. And while we all long to build one another up, to celebrate the good, to cheer and champion each other on, it doesn’t always feel possible.

Especially when we’ve taken risks for the Gospel that feel like they aren’t paying off. How do you comfort the missional community leader who’s uprooted her entire life to start a homeless ministry hundreds of miles away from anyone she knows, and still has barely managed to gather three or four people together on a weekly basis? Meanwhile, the established church down the street has the resources to gather and feed hundreds of homeless people every Sunday.

Does it mean she isn’t called? Does it means she made a mistake? How does she fight off the feelings of failure and bitterness?

We all struggle with our own sets of insecurities and comparison. But in a ministry context they can be particularly deadly. Instead of partners in the Gospel, we become enemies. We secretly celebrate each other’s failures and pat our selves on the back for not making similar mistakes. With condescension in our hearts we offer help and advise without offering friendship.

Somewhere in the isolation, in the loneliness, under the facade of unity we give up.

One of the missions of As Family We Go, is to put an end to the competition and help find ways to foster community between our network of communities. We might not all look exactly the same, be located in close proximity, or have all the same exact values, but we can be family. We can cheer each other on when no one else will. So how do we get there?

True friendship, true community starts in a place of vulnerability. It starts when we share the fears that keep us up at night, the times we felt like quitting, the times we took steps of faith and fell flat on our faces. We have this theory that we can only laugh together, when we’ve cried together.

As C. S. Lewis says, “Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

Unity comes through shared experience, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and face-to-face, through shared stories, tears, struggles and reality. It’s only once we’ve been honest with each other about some of our more painful realities that we can really feel on the same team and celebrate each other’s victories like they’re our own.

We hope As Family We Go becomes a space where missional communities, church-planters, dreamers and adventurers for the Gospel can come together in a deep and meaningful way. That we would shoulder one another’s burdens, and celebrate the joys of what it is to be ambassadors for the family of God.

Gabby has been involved in missions and church planting most of her life. First in Central Asia, and now on the road working as the written voice for Rend Collective. In As Family We Go, she works as the Creative and Communication director, collecting stories and connecting churches on the road.

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