That’s the question I was asked by a church consultant at a recent meeting.
We were discussing future plans for our facilities, and what kind of size, features, visibility, and “curb appeal” we might want to have in a new building, when we build one. He told us it was important to have these, since there was a “lot of competition up here in Ellijay.” That’s when he asked that question. “Who is your competition up here?”
I was a little taken aback by the question. Was he joking?
It was clear that he was referring to other churches in our area. He was asking what other churches are really kicking it up here in Ellijay? What churches did we somehow want to leapfrog, to “beat?”
I wondered if he asked this question of the other churches he has worked with in the past? (his client portfolio is very impressive, serving lots of churches around the country who’s names you would likely recognize!) Is this really the mentality of church leaders when it comes to reaching our communities? That we are competing against each other, and that this was a race to become the biggest, or the best in some way?
My eyes darted from him to the other elders in the room… “Competition? Our only competition is Satan. He alone stands against the gospel being proclaimed in our community.”
There was sort of a pause in the conversation at that point.
I didn’t say it out loud, but I was thinking, maybe this guy didn’t understand what we’re doing here. If we are going to win this… If we are going to defeat our competition, we aren’t going to win because of “curb appeal.” We are NOT engaged in a battle for more sheep in a bigger pen. We are warriors fighting a life-and-death war for the Kingdom of God. This isn’t fun and games. It isn’t about popularity, auditorium size, social media “likes,” or number of online sermons viewed. This is ONLY about redeeming this lost and dying world back to it’s rightful status as created by God. We aren’t doing this with landscaping and faux stone. We are part of freeing people from their bondage to sin, serving a master of death, and restoring them to life and freedom in Christ.
Our competition hates this, and is fighting with all the anger, hatred, and demonic power he can muster. So, we won’t win with curb appeal.
Ephesians 6:11–18 (NLT)
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
I don’t know. Maybe I am naive, but I really wish we churches could stop trying to beat each other, and start trying to beat our true enemy. Maybe that is part of why the church in America seems to be shriveling up and dying… Maybe we’re more worried about the church down the road than we are about our true enemy, so we are not even fighting the real fight.
Philippians 1:27 (NLT)
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.
Jesus was pretty clear that programs, activities, buildings and even pastors are not the builders of the church… He said that he would build his church… Jesus is the only key. When HE builds his church “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18)