Why Churches SHOULD Compete

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If your church wants to be better, maybe it should start competing with other churches.

If your church wants to be better, maybe it should start competing with other churches.

Judging from the reactions I get from some church people after I say that, you’d think I’d suggested adding Justin Bieber to the Holy Trinity.

Some of us have become afraid of the word competition. We think the concept is worldly, even evil. But competition doesn’t need to be a bad thing. At its best, competition can make everyone stronger.

In the church world, fear of competition comes largely from a misconception commonly heard in economics discussions. Some of us think that the number of potential church members in a community make up a pie, and that the size of that pie is fixed. Each church gets a piece of that pie, and the only way to get a bigger piece is to take pie from the other churches.

This simply isn’t so. Here’s why.

In the business world, if a product has reached market saturation, then the pie analogy starts to have some validity. Theoretically, once there are no new customers for a particular type of product, competing vendors are forced to go after each other’s customers to increase their market share.

But Christianity is nowhere near market saturation, so churches don’t need to compete for the same people.

The reality, of course, is that a congregation that is effective at attracting the unchurched is also going to occasionally steal a few sheep from the church down the street. This is normal, and it need not be taken personally. There’s a big difference between directly targeting another church’s members and attracting them while trying to reach a different group.

Remember, people in the pews often have the same hang-ups about church as the ones who aren’t already part of a congregation—they just haven’t figured out how to escape yet. There’s no way to attract one group without appealing to the other. 

So what’s the point of competing if it isn’t to destroy the competition?

Well, for one, to raise the bar and improve everyone’s game. Competition can be friendly.

Consider one-on-one basketball. Although you want to win every time you play, if you have half a brain you also want your friend’s game to improve as well. Why? Because that pushes you to continue to raise the level of your game.

Playing against scrubs is good for your ego, but it won’t make you a better basketball player.

Shane Raynor Shane Raynor is an editor and columnist for MinistryMatters.com. He lives in Nashville, TN.

More from Shane Raynor or visit Shane at http://ministrymatters.com

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  • http://www.tylorstandley.com Tylor Standley

    I find nothing edifying or biblical about this article. I reject the premise that churches should be attracting the unchurched in the first place. Church ought to be a training hub for missionaries. Our goal isn’t to get lost people to church, but to Jesus. “Iron sharpens iron” is hardly a call to some spiritualized-capitalism in which we get things (much less people) for ourselves. This view undercuts the core teaching of Christ, which is that we should be servants of all (yes, even other churches [yes, even in other denominations]). Competition is not humility; it is not service. It is a way to display one’s own dominance. Moreover, the article doesn’t even present anything new. Churches already act this way in order to gain numbers–and it is utterly failing. Why must we corporatize the Kingdom of God?

    • Tim

      Well said Tylor

    • http://www.shaneraynor.com/ Shane Raynor

      Tylor, I’m afraid the article you’re criticizing isn’t the article I wrote. You don’t seem to have grasped my distinction between friendly competition and unfriendly competition. And your assertion that churches already act this way…if only! The vision of competition I’ve put forth isn’t one where each church tries to put the other out of business, but one where each church pushes the other toward excellence. Your comment seems to come from the notion that all capitalism is bad—it’s not. And there are plenty of lessons Christians can learn from the world of business.

    • F

      Because the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of Order. I once had this mindset, until the Holy Spirit help get out of the box. The message is sacred not the method.

  • Arowosegbe Olu

    I agree with Tylor that the concept of “competition” is worldly and not biblical.1 Corinthians 9:24 is talking of “running” in a race, not “competing” in a race and there is a world of difference between them! You don’t win the Christian race because you are the “fastest” or “strongest”. Once the spirit of competition enters a church, that church will eventually no longer listen to her Shepherd and Head (the Lord Jesus Christ) but be motivated by what others are doing or failing to do as suggested by Shane in his article. I believe each church (including each christian) should take time to discover the will of the Father and do it with joy, nothing more, nothing less.

  • PAorangeburg

    Sounds like the ARC (Association of Related Churches) point of view. All these church plants with TV at the end of their websites. Those church’s are desperately trying to and successfully getting people to come to their church but unfortunately not sharing Biblical truth about current cultural issues. For instance Homosexuality! They don’t want to talk about it so as not to upset anyone.

  • DM

    I am a Pastor of a Church (65 members) which desperately struggles to ‘compete’ with the bigger, better resourced churches that surround us. I have not found this article at all helpful or realistic as it seems to promote a business, consumer led mind-set while it claims not to.

    • Frank

      Small mind can’t comprehend big pictures. Your small because you choose to be, and your efforts though genuine always circles the same tree. Get out of the box.

      • MyoungSr

        Frank: Your remarks are remarkably harsh and unnessarily “competitive” and in my opinion, show a serious lack of understanding. A lack of understanding of people, their feelings, what motivates people, what inspires and ignites people in their hearts and minds and moves them to action – and, oh yes, a lack of understanding of the context of the bible.

        (By the way, your use of the phrase “small mind can’t comprehend big pictures” is deliberately insulting and shows a fatal misunderstanding regarding the Body of Christ)

        12 ¶ For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.
        13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
        14 For the body is not one member, but many.
        15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
        16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
        17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
        18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.
        19 If they were all one member, where would the body be?
        20 But now there are many members, but one body.
        21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
        22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;
        23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,
        24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,
        25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
        26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
        27 ¶ Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

        Hope you don’t but I imagine at some point in your journey you will run headlong into the ‘same tree’ you say this person runs around. After you do, let us know how you feel about competition, then.

  • Colin

    This is terrible. How on earth can this be biblical? We please Christ – NOT the congregation, and NOT for “one-ups-manship”

  • Scott Uselman

    Wow. At least Shane has the guts to post this. I think even though the point isn’t to put other churches out of business, that is exactly what happens. I know Shane pointed out that this is really about making each other better, but I’m content to allow the Holy Spirit mold and shape His Church as He desires. The problem with American Christianity is this concept of competing with other churches. It’s a problem because we destroy, let’s say unintentionally, commitment to the Body that the Spirit placed us in. Commitment is undermined. Hmm, doesn’t commitment sound like a major problem in our society today? Blow off your relationships with those you go to church with so that you can go be entertained. Or, don’t blow them off, but encourage those people to come with you because your new church is much more fun. Intentional or not, this is part of the fallout from this type of thinking. Shane, again, I am glad you posted this. At least you state your purpose in competing and I respect you for it. We just simply have a different point of view.

    • Mike B

      I would add, a lot of the ‘pastors’ that really drive their church to these levels were trained in business, and/or marketing. I think we need to remember that not everyone is a ‘superstar’ but loving and shepherding individuals fulfilling their call from God. Does this mean we do not attempt to develop our personal skill level and lead others to do the same? Absolutely not. But we, definitely, need to avoid a competitors spirit while we pursue ‘the great commission in the spirit of the great commandment.’

  • Frank

    Since I recently left the business world I understands the point of this article perfectly. I’ve seen colleagues push each other in sales to improve the performances of both. While as a church we haven’t competed with other churches we have competed with our previous accomplishments. We try to improve every year. We prayerfully try to achieve what we believe God has shown us is our goal.

  • Edwin O’Connor

    If we were talking “inspiration”, I could see “friendly competition” between churches as one church experiencing the workings of the Holy Spirit and another church being inspired (renewed in passion) towards Christ. This is, by the way, the true evidence of divine work: the Holy Spirit pointing/leading/guiding/prompting/convicting/etc to Jesus Christ. Our culture has great difficulty distinguishing this spiritual work from the emotional–so we tend to blur the two together (like this article). I think Jesus addressed this mindset well when the disciples stumbled upon Him after arguing who was the greatest. Did this competition please Jesus? Did He declare the one who could play a musical instrument the best to be the winner? Did He say the one that had the greater “wow factor” in speaking to be the winner? Did He say the one doing the most unusual thing was the winner? Actually, Jesus endorsed the exact opposite of competition in that the first shall be last; the greatest the least. I’m not sure how compatible this is with the McChurch culture we live in. Unless, of course, we make a big show of being “the least”…

  • Manny

    This blog is so stupid! STUPID!!

  • G

    Don’t listen to small minded Christians, boo whoo lack resources, humility, heart of Christ. So what your church runs 65 people big whoop cry me a river. Driscoll, Gray, Furtick those guys are competing what do the get people.

  • Guest

    Well, I get what you’re saying with the article, and I appreciate it. I think we should all aspire to be excellent and encourage others to be excellent also. I guess we just need to be careful that we don’t get carried away.

  • Randy

    Just can’t see Jesus …or any of his 1st, 2nd or 3rd century disciples reading something like this and going….”Wow, what a great approach!….all we need to do is see
    where we can meet some felt needs, get some better singers and pump up a few
    more of our skills ….and we’ll really get this thing growing!!!
    Regarding the very birth of “church gatherings” Jesus emphasized in Acts 1:8
    the PRIMARY FUNCTION & OUTCOME of Holy Spirit-empowered gatherings; was
    that empowered believers would DEPLOY – out from the assembly with the specific
    intent of sharing the Gospel – (The Power of God unto Salvation (Rom 1:16)) so
    that it could transform our neighborhoods, communities and nations. So where does
    using human conventions to get more people into “our local church” seem to
    remotely fit into these purposes? We’ve sadly allowed “coming to OUR church” to become venerated above the Command to each member of HIS Church to “Go – make NEW disciples everywhere”. We train for and gather immense resources for the former, but give mostly lip service to the latter…God help us, for the sake of the lost, to embrace our mission: live-sent!

  • Roger

    The first time I read through this, i was thinking this had to be a spoof or joke… but then to my disbelief, I realized this guy is actually being serious! What a nut!

    This article summarizes everything that is wrong with the church today. Shane takes the cynical notion that church is not much more than a business (an idea I tend to agree with, by the way), but then instead of looking for an alternative to the business model of church, he promotes it as normative and then gives some ideas how churches can act even MORE like businesses.

    How shallow and pathetic.

    The Church is supposed to be the body of Christ and we are supposed to work together to build one another up, not fight for supremacy as the coolest church with the trendiest pastor and best rock band in town. This is precisely why so many non-believers find church so stupid, and rightly so.

  • UnchurchedPK

    First of all, we are not given a Spirit of Fear says Scripture, it’s better to Complete (your mission) than Compete (rival) with other Churches. Each Church has it’s own unique Call, Purpose, Gifts and functions to fulfill. We live in a hurting and messy world, lets stay focused and do Our Part, learn from and Help each Other.
    On that note, it would be nice to see more Churches Own Businesses and engage in Real Commerce (e- commerce / credit union / real estate investments / franchises / manufacturing ) to fund their Visions instead of only relying only on Tithes and Offering to do it, that in itself would be a Testimony to the world that we are the Head and not the tail, the Lender not the Borrower.