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Knowing the Competition

Knowing the Competition

In our athletics-crazed culture, we understand the importance of scouting the opponent before the big game. The more one knows about the competition, the better prepared one can be with the defensive and offensive strategies the home team will need to execute in order to win. In a recent book on church growth, the author argues that churches interested in growing must also come to terms with the competition. We must know who and what we are competing against for members’ and visitors’ time, attention, devotion, and service.
The surprise is that the opponent is not other churches--at least according to this author. He lists other churches as colleagues rather than competition. His interest is not in proselyting from other churches but in reaching the unchurched and motivating the local membership for greater service and outreach. With that in mind, the term competition takes on interesting meanings. The church’s competition ends up being all of those things which we would chose to do in place of church activities and commitments. The competition is everything our culture deems important enough to put “being Jesus to our world” in second place. Yes, that may be television for some, or other forms of entertainment that allow us to “tune out” and “space out.” Again, in this sports-crazed culture, what about our emphasis and interest in athletics, from toddler t-ball to professional teams, from participation to watching on television? The competition to the church is not some evil boogey man that never bothers us. It is not those things in our culture we view as evil, but those in which we find great pleasure and leisure--and distraction.
The Apostle Paul agreed with the Corinthian Christians’ philosophy, “All things are lawful,” but he quickly reminded them, “not everthing is helpful” in pursuing God’s way and will for our lives. As we seek to be the living body of Christ, we need to know our competition and developing a strategy for victorious Christian living.
John O. York

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