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Crowns or credit? Competition in ministry

June 2016
By: Melissa Heiland

As a person who has been involved in ministry for many decades, I am becoming increasingly concerned about competition in ministry. I know it has a very ugly sound and no one likes to admit it, but I don’t see how we can ignore the obvious. In ministry, everybody seems to be keeping score. In a world where we can count the number of “likes” and “followers” and “tweets,” ministry, more than ever, has become a popularity contest. I am not opposed to using social media in ministry. In fact, I have seen the Lord use social media to grow ministry and unite people in very positive ways. But I do think we need to step back and look at the danger of the competitive spirit that seems to be so prevalent amongst believers in leadership.

Competition Leads to Unkindness

First of all, competition causes us to be unkind to one another. I have seen many people betrayed by their fellow believers because of this destructive spirit of competition. The Lord tells us that the world will know us by our love. In John 17:20-21, Jesus says, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be as one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You. May they also be one in Us, that the world may believe that You have sent Me." Until we can work together as brothers and sisters with a common goal of bringing glory to God alone, we will not be able to reach the world for Christ. They see our in-fighting and want no part of us or the God we serve. 

We Should Work Together

Secondly, there is far too much work to be done, to waste time on fighting with each other. There is plenty of work for everyone. We need to link arms and work together. The enemy wants to keep us distracted battling each other so that we neglect the real battle. "For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) The Bible clearly tells us that we are one body in Christ. I believe this applies not only to local, individual churches but to the Church as a whole.

Although individual churches and ministries function separately for practical reasons, we need to work together to accomplish the goal of winning the world for Christ. We are all on the same team and need to help each other. When we reject the worldly concept of competition and seek to promote only our Savior and never ourselves, we accomplish God’s will. Ephesians 6: 16 is a beautiful description of how God designed us to function: “from whom the whole body is joined together and connected by every joint and ligament, as every part effectively does its work and grows, building itself up in love.” We were created to work in partnership!

Crowns or Credit

Lastly, if we expend our energies seeking recognition and approval from people here on earth, our efforts are in vain. We are wasting our time. God has told us not to advertise what we are doing for our own glory. He says in Matthew 6:3, “but when you do your charitable deeds, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” 

As we continue reading in this chapter, in verse 5 we see a phrase that haunts my thoughts. It speaks of the hypocrites who pray loudly in the synagogues so they can be seen by men. The Bible says, “they have their reward.” This is a chilling thought, that our rewards will not be in heaven, but only here on earth with the fleeting and fickle praise of men. We need to be focused on an audience of one, Jesus Christ. Crowns or credit? Which will you choose?

Melissa Heiland is the founder and president of Beautiful Feet International, a missions organization that plants international pregnancy centers and sends mission teams around the world. She is an international speaker and author who is passionate about sharing the Gospel. She and her husband, Ken, have 6 children and 2 grandchildren.

This article was reprinted with permission from where it originally appeared on April 8, 2016.

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