January 15, 2013

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The most-mega of Lexington, KY’s mega-churches opened a new satellite campus recently. For many in our congregation, their new campus is much closer and more convenient than their main campus is.

I’ve had some people ask me if I’m concerned about it; if I’m concerned about “closer competition”; if I’m worried that we might lose people to the big, bad mega-church.

On a similar note, a popular book on church stewardship came out a few years ago with a new definition of “competition.” The first paragraph of the book tells how the number of non-profits in America doubled in the last ten years. Then it says, “What these numbers show is that in ten years the competition has nearly doubled.” The rest of the book is about how to get people to give your church more money when competition for charitable dollars is so stiff. (My conference actually encouraged all of its pastors to read that book.)

According to those who asked me about the mega-church, the local church’s competition is other churches.

According to that popular book on stewardship, the local church’s competition is all other non-profits – church and non-church alike.

Friends and colleagues, let’s please not miss this:

The church’s competition is sin, injustice, and heresy!

So long as other local churches aren’t teaching heresy or condoning sin, they’re our allies. That mega-church people have asked me about has made some great strides in the battle against injustice, both in Lexington and around the world. Years ago, one of my closest friends began taking his faith seriously as a result of their ministry. They’re allies, not competition.

And the children’s hospital, the blood center, the homeless prevention center… Competition? Really?!? For Christ’s sake! Literally. Surely we see these as great allies!

Scarcity and Abundance

I think those who see the the non-profit charity banquet and the church down the street as competition are operating out of a scarcity mentality: there are only so many Christians with only so much money to go around.

If our concerns are as petty as getting people to our church rather than the one down the road, getting people to give to us rather than the shelter for battered women, is it any wonder that the American church is in decline?

Here’s the truth: there is an abundance of competition out there. There’s no shortage of evil in this world.

And there is an abundance available from God to go out into our world and fight back. If you don’t have enough money to do something worthwhile, it’s not because the blood center took it all.

January 15, 2013

Comments (1)

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Our Real Competition is...

...the plethora of other activities that occur in our communities on any given Sunday.

Let's face it: we churches thought we should have a monopoly on Sunday. That thought was coddled by the so-called "blue laws" that kept businesses from being open on Sundays---ostensibly so that the employees and business owners could go worship. We were the only game in town, the only activity that people could do outside of their homes. We grew to think that was normal. It was not. It was an abnormality that flew in the face of reality.

This came to my realization in seminary, 44 years ago, when my wife and I took our dirty clothes down the street to the coin-operated laundromat on a Sunday afternoon, after worship, to wash our clothes on the only day of the week WE were off of work. It was closed: the city had "blue laws" that banned all but "essential" businesses from being open on Sunday. That was the day we went to the next town and washed our clothes. That was the day we realized that if we needed to do grocery shopping on the one day we didn't have to work, that was a necessity, not a sin.

Since then, youth activities, shopping malls, movie theaters, are all competing with us for outside-of-home activities on Sundays. Cable and Satellite Television compete for the attention of potential church attendees, 24/7. Our unwillingness to spend the money to offer anything but an extremely conservative version of the Christian faith on television, or radio, made that part of our competition. Our insistence on remaining with geographical "parishes" in a day when people all now live in non-geographical communities makes us part of our own competition!

Like every business in this country, we all have to live with competition. This is nothing new. What is both new and old is the fact that we thinks that because we are somehow representing God (or our particular theological understanding of God), we should be exempt from the realities that affect everyone else.

Isn't this a bit arrogant, on our part?

Tom Griffith more than 1 years ago


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