Everyone in basketball hates the Warriors. Everyone in football hates the Patriots. Everyone in baseball hates the Yankees. Everyone in college sports hates Alabama, Duke, and Kentucky. The most common reason? "They win all the time." What's lurking below the surface is something more than fandom: resenting success. Think about it. Everyone in college football gets the same number of scholarships. Everyone in the SEC has the facilities, coaches, and fans. But Alabama still wins. Everyone in the NBA gets the same salary cap, draft picks work against good teams, and everyone gets the same TV money and exposure. But the Warriors keep winning. The NFL is designed for parity and punishes successful teams with scheduling. But the Patriots keep winning.
Maybe we all have a level of hater to us, where we just get mad and resent when someone else is doing better than us. Maybe it's jealousy because our favorite team languishes behind a more successful rival (I'm a lifelong Louisville fan, the Kentucky success is maddening).
But before we put ourselves spiritual and blameless, let's be honest. As pastors, we sometimes find ourselves in the same spot. The church down the road has money to take on a major building project while you're praying the AC units hold out. The pastor on your social media feed who gets a book deal and is speaking at a conference. The megachurch across town is bursting with young families and your median age are Civil War veterans.
Pastor, let me encourage you to be content in where God has placed you. He's the one who called you, who sustains you, and who has asked you to be faithful.
Celebrate Others' Success - It's really easy for us to get jealous or resent when someone else's church has a spectacular VBS or has a note-burning ceremony. But whenever great things happen to churches in our community, Jesus wins. It's not about us and our little kingdom, it's about His. So don't resent when others have great moments. Celebrate them. Text that church's pastor and encourage him. We're all in this together.
Don't Belittle Others' Failures - The flip side of the coin is for when we have a great moment or a really "successful" ministry to not be a jerk about it. Your church had a youth camp where a lot of kids got saved, and the church across town had to cancel theirs because no one signed up. Don't gloat. Your win today came because of God's grace to you.
Work Together - Churches that work together do more ministry than they could do apart from each other. Are you looking at launching a sports ministry? Maybe the church down the road with a big field could be where you host the games? At our church, we're hoping to partner with a neighbor congregation for Upward. They have a gym, we have a big field. We can do more work together than we could do apart from each other. And it doesn't matter who gets the visitors or prospects. Jesus wins, not us.
Cultivate a Heart of Gratitude - You may not be on the speaking circuit or have a book deal or pastor a church recognized in denominational news. But you're at a church that hopefully loves you and loves your family. You're at a church that God called you to. You're pastoring people God has called you to love and lead. You're paid to study the Bible, prepare messages, visit and care for people. No matter where God has placed you, you have a lot to be grateful for. And that starts with our hearts.
What have you done to celebrate another church's success in your area?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.