April 8, 2019

The Lure of Comparing

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Have you found yourself recently comparing yourself to another pastor, or comparing your ministry context to a place where the “grass seems greener?”

We compare attendance, financial resources, facilities, and programs.

In other areas of life, we might compare homes, jobs, incomes, or children’s accomplishments.

We can all be drawn into the comparison trap — even those serving in churches are not immune to this temptation.

Comparison and envy can weigh us down.

We can feel sorry for ourselves or jealous of what another person enjoys. We can become angry, lonely, quick to over-function, lazy, judgmental or unappreciative.

In the process, we might wonder if we are really called into ministry or why God won’t bear more fruit through our efforts?

Those serving in smaller contexts might feel as though they aren’t as “successful.”  Those serving in larger contexts might feel equally alone, burdened with high expectations and busy workloads.  Every context has its own challenges.

What if we realized that God calls us to faithfulness over earthly success?

It’s better to be faithful in God’s eyes and less successful in the world’s eyes than to be successful in the world’s eyes, yet unfaithful in God’s eyes.

We compare what we see, but there is so much more. The greener looking grass, the leader who seems filled with charisma and spiritual maturity, or ministry with a bursting attendance may not be as healthy as it looks.

God wants us to be faithful. He longs to say to us someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Here are a few resources you might find helpful to read and consider when you are tempted to compare or give up rather than pursue faithfulness to where God has called you:

1. Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndromeby Kent Hughes

Hughes writes, “Pastors, youth workers, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, lay ministers, missionaries, Bible study leaders, Christian writers and speaker, and those in other areas of Christian service often face significant feelings of failure, usually fueled by misguided expectations for success.” (pg. 9)

Hughes is honest and transparent, writing of himself: “When I began the ministry my motivation was simply to serve Christ. That was all. My heroes were people like Jim Elliot, whose motto – He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose – was part of my life. All I wanted was the approval of God. But imperceptibly my high Christian idealism had shifted from serving to receiving, from giving to getting. I realized that what I really wanted was a growing church and ‘success’ more than the smile of God.” (pg. 30)

Further into his book, Hughes reminds us that “our call is to be faithful” (pg. 35) and that such “faithfulness is possible for all believers, regardless of the size of a person’s ministry.” (pg. 37)

2. The Heart of a Great Pastor: How to Grow Strong and Thrive Wherever God has Planted You” by B.London Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman

In this book the authors list significant questions that every pastor in the thick of the struggle must answer:

  • What difference will I make?
  • Why am I here?
  • Who sent me?
  • Is this assignment sacred because God placed me here?
  • What does God want to accomplish here?

They go on to list and describe seven resources available for use in every assignment — resources never limited by geography, finances, facilities or creed:

  • Resource 1 – Every congregation is unique
  • Resource 2 – Every congregation needs a pastor’s love
  • Resource 3 – God provides supernatural encouragement
  • Resource 4 – Every church needs Bible preaching
  • Resource 5 – Every pastor is distinctly gifted
  • Resource 6 – Every setting has potential
  • Resource 7 – Every church has something to give people

When tempted to compare, or perhaps run from your current calling, consider the   questions each pastor must answer.  Then celebrate the resources God provides to help     you bloom where planted.

3. “The Most Successful Pastor You’ve Never Heard Of” by Karl Vaters in Christianity Today

Don’t be fooled by the word “successful” – it’s not based on a worldly definition!

The next time you’re prone to compare yourself to someone or something else, remember that God chose you to serve where you are planted.

Until He clearly calls you somewhere else or calls you home; bloom where you are and faithfully carry out the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Give thanks for the privilege of serving the Lord. 

Keep your eyes and heart focused on the people God calls you to impact and the opportunities God empowers you to carry out!

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