I can't tell you how much time I’ve wasted in my ministry comparing myself to others. If I could have preached like Piper or Chandler or led like…the comparisons were endless—and deadly.
This kind of non-redemptive comparison is dangerous on several levels:
• First, it causes us to undervalue what God is doing in our midst and fail to rightly praise Him for His sovereign work.
• Second, it opens the door for greater discouragement (as if there isn't enough in ministry already), which is a serious hazard for all parties involved.
• Third, comparison can lead us to have unrealistic expectations, which can lead to additional stress and toxicity in our relationships.
Having served as an elder at another successful church plant, I naturally assumed that I would simply do what I knew worked there and see similar results in my context. This was not the case. This kind of thinking neglected the obvious truths that I was not that church's leader, we didn't have that church's resources and that our context was different. To expect two churches to see the same results is like expecting one of your boys to be exactly like his brother. None of us would counsel that kind of parenting, because we know the kind of dysfunction it produces. The same is true in church planting.
• Fourth, and perhaps the most dangerous, comparison reveals our deeper idolatry.
When we are comparing ourselves to others, we are looking for something other than Jesus to satisfy our souls, namely our own success. If outreach goes well, we feel good. If giving goes down...massive crisis. If our spiritual and emotional health fluctuates based on "how things went on Sunday," then our ups and downs likely indicate that we are searching for our identity in our role as a church planter and not in the cross.
So you may be saying, "I get it, comparison is bad, but it seems almost innately human. How can I prevent it?" Consider the following alternatives.
When you are tempted to compare yourself to someone else or their ministry:
• Praise God for what He is doing there. Pray for that leader, church or ministry. Pray that God would continue to bless them and purify your heart for your own jealousy towards them.
• Allow it to expose your idolatry for what it is. We all too often try to rationalize away the gravity of our sin in the name of leadership development. But the fact is, if we are coveting the gifting and success of another, we should repent.
• Preach the gospel to yourself. This is not just a pithy saying people use —it is a matter of life and death for a church planter. Study gospel-centered discipleship. Memorize gospel-identity Scriptures. Do whatever it takes to replace the enemy's lies with the truth.
If we stop trying to be someone else and simply be who God has made us to be, it will bring him more glory and help us be more effective in serving all those we influence.
*A good coach can help keep you on track in this and other areas. If you need a coach, we can help. Visit the Connect page and let's talk.