Comparisons and Dirty Little Secrets

Are you trying to keep up with the Jones? The Jones that go to the “cool church” on the other side of the city. The Jones who go to the “artsy church” in the nearest urban center or college town? The Jones who go to the big, well known church in your tribe or denomination?

Well… Stop it. Stop it right now. Stop it right now, and here’s why…

COMPARISONS MISUNDERSTAND CALLING

John 21:22 says: “Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I come, what is that to you? You must follow me”

Jesus is talking to Peter, and the “him” they are talking about is John. Jesus has just restored and commission Peter after the resurrection. Jesus also indicates to Peter that he will die a martyrs death. Peter looks at John and asks ‘what about that guy?’

Peter and John are equally loved by Jesus. They are equally forgiven by Jesus. They are equally called by Jesus to serve on his mission. But Jesus called them to do different things. Peter died the death Jesus promised him. John was the only member of the 12 to die of old age.

Maybe you see the worship ministry that another church has and you’re jealous. Maybe you see the freedom of expression that another worship leader has, while you feel tied down and constrained with rules. Maybe you see the large pool of talented musicians who go to one church and the handful who go to yours.

Did the Holy Spirit call you to be where you are at? If no then quit, and quit fast. But if that answer is yes, then remain faithful to where you are called and know that “you must follow Jesus”

COMPARISONS MISPLACE VISION

If you have been called to serve where you are at, then I believe that you will be granted an accompanying vision for that calling. This vision may come from multiple sources. A timely word from another christian. A mandate or objectives from your church’s leadership. A biblical model or principle that your church or tribe adheres to. Maybe you just a good old fashioned, honest to goodness Bible times style Vision for what you were supposed to do. However it came to you, it’s yours.

Comparisons take your eyes off the vision God has give you and puts it on a vision that was never meant for you. Let’s say your church has gone through a season of friction and conflict. Then you see a church that is pushing envelopes and boundaries in their musical expression, and you wish you could do the same. How would that serve your church at this moment? Maybe there is a lot of pressure to be like the big church with their big band. But God has seen fit to put you in a smaller church with a smaller musical pool, why would God call you to be like a church he hasn’t put you in?

God has give his church vision. What’s yours? If yours looks different than the church down the street then rejoice! Because God has called you and your ministry to fulfill a different role in his kingdom in your city.

COMPARISONS WILL ALWAYS LEAVE YOU BEHIND THE TIMES

One of the big temptations in the comparison game is to look at the “cool, hip, and successful (large)” churches and want to do it like they are doing it. The problem is that by the time you start trying to emulate them, they are on to the next big thing. I can imagine them saying: “Oh, your doing that? Yeah, we did that last year… it was cool I guess… we’re doing this other thing now.” And the Jones remain one step ahead of you.

The other big temptation is to compare with the past. Remember the “good old days”? How great it was? How powerful it was? If we could only get back there. The next thing you know you’re moving backwards instead of moving forwards. Whenever I attend a meeting or conference of my group of churches I have a strict “no glory days” policy. Someone starts talking about “how it was” and I try to find a way to politely say “awesome. Hey, what’s God doing now in your church?” Why? Because our God is active and on the move and working in our generation in this day and age.

Whether you’re tempted to emulate the past or someone else’s present, you will easily miss the future that God has for your ministry.

COMPARISONS WILL LEAD YOU TO REBELLION

I’ve written most of the above with leadership in mind, but let’s talk about the rest of us. What if you’re not making the decisions? Comparison can lead to rebellion.

Did God call you to lead your church? If you’re not in the Leadership then the answer is “not right now, no”. Did God call you and place you in the church you’re at now? If the answer is yes then it’s time to be Un-American and submit ;). If we really are servants then we need to serve.

-Are you comparing your church to the expression or organization of another church’s music? You’re not called to that church.

-Are you comparing your church to how it used to be? Stop it, and see what I wrote in the last section about the good old days.

-Are you comparing your church to the church you came from? See the above sentence.

Don’t give the enemy a foothold to bring a spirit of rebellion into your life and into the worship community you serve in. Feel free to voice an opinion, but then go with where God is leading your leadership, and try to catch that same vision.

COMPARISONS IGNORE THE DLSs OF CHURCH LIFE

What are DLS’s? They are the Dirty Little Secrets that comparisons always ignore. Are they really “dirty”? No, it’s just a metaphor, but they are there and they need to be acknowledged. Here’s a few:

-That other church has an established practice night and that’s better.

Maybe it’s a good goal to have, but in a lot of normal churches the folks on the worship team also serve in other ministries as well. If you add up Sunday Mornings, Mid-week bible study, youth ministries, home groups, etc, there is just no room for a regular practice night. The DLS is that something that maybe vital or important in your church’s life makes a regular practice impossible and it wouldn’t be worth it to replace it.

-At our church, we don’t know the set until Saturday night so we can be in line with the pastor’s message.

The DLS here is that they have a  practice night. It’s all well and good, but it doesn’t tell the whole story, and may not work at your church at all. Don’t feel bad if it doesn’t.

-The worship band at that other church is all “pro level” musicians.

Sure, because at many churches they are paid staff. What this DLS also doesn’t tell you about the many people who aren’t given the chance to serve or be discipled and raised up because they don’t come with a certain talent level. You may be doing a great work in raising up the next generation of worship leaders that the big church’s pro-level team could never dream of.

These are just some examples, the point is to understand that what may be touted as “the way to do things right”, might not work at all for your church, or it might sound good but really produce bad results, or maybe, there’s a lot more to the story that they forgot to mention.

COMPARISONS IGNORE THE JOURNEY

A few years ago a well known pastor came and spoke at a regional pastors and leaders conference. He talked about how standard youth ministry didn’t work and his church had “killed their youth group” to save their youth! Within six months, at least five churches in the region had done the same. But they didn’t do the whole thing. The DLS of this pastor shutting down their youth ministry was that this church already acted like a youth church. Loud rock music, video, lights, etc. They kept youth small groups going and really things hadn’t changed other then the room the teens met in. This church was already set up to receive their youth into the main service. The other churches that shut down their youth groups didn’t take this into account and paid a price for it when the youth weren’t received well.

Comparisons only see the here and now. You see an established music ministry and you don’t see the early days when they only had a cheap acoustic and a nice guy who could kinda carry kinda a tune. You see a church that has an established practice night, and you don’t see the early days when they couldn’t because everyone served in three different ministries. You only see where God has brought them and not were they have been.

Another church I know brought on a new worship pastor who began implementing the systems and programs of a larger more established church. Several months later he’s confused about the backlash from the worship community and the lack of progress. When the situation was described to me, “I said it wasn’t surprising that it had failed to work. You’re taking the current methods of a church that’s 20 years into it’s journey, and your church is 4 years into it’s journey. You’re trying to run before you can walk.”

Where are you? Where is God bringing you? What is God bringing you through? Don’t miss out on the vital lessons and blessings God has for you and your ministry because you’re trying to get to where he’s got someone else. Comparisons rob you of the joys and lessons that God’s Spirit wants to bring to you as he leads you on YOUR journey.

DON’T LET COMPARISONS ROB YOU

God has great plans for you, your ministry, and your church. Don’t let the enemy use comparisons with others to rob you of the great things God has in store. Lean into God for vision from his word (the Bible) and his Spirit working in your heart and the hearts of your church’s leadership. God is doing great things in our day and it is a shame when we miss out by chasing visions meant for others and not embracing the road we are called to walk.

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