Pastors, Stop Competing and Start Hanging Out

I enjoy a little friendly competition. The reality is many churches don’t compete on friendly terms. In fact, in a given city or zip code, the likelihood is many pastors do not even know each other. Reasons exist for this lack of connection, and not all of them are malicious. Pastors can get swept into the busyness of their own churches. I’m guilty. It takes effort to manage relationships with other pastors.

With your friends and acquaintances, you tend to hope for the best. With those you don’t know, you tend to default to apathy or distrust. Whether the distance is intentional or not, it can create an unnecessary cloud of suspicion. Then you will either stop caring or start competing. What are some of the warning signs? 

Automatically assuming malicious motives. When you don’t know someone, the tendency can be to assign ill motives, even when none are present. Wait . . .  they had how many in worship last week? Those numbers can’t be correct. 

Bitterness at their success. You tend to celebrate the successes of your friends and lament the achievements of your competition. They rely on gimmicks, not real ministry.

A desire to beat them at their own game. Competing pastors engage in a battle of one-upmanship. We can run that program better than they can. We can perform that worship song with more energy than they can. 

Having a sense of territorialism. When pastors compete, the mission field becomes a battlefield. Don’t cross certain lines or you risk raising the ire of another pastor. Why are they planting a campus here? It’s so close to us!

The problem of competing churches begins with the pastors, not the people. The solution also starts with the pastors. And it’s simple: Hang out and get to know each other. Become friends.

Friends assume the best. Cooperating pastors do not assign malicious motives. They hold each other accountable. When pastors hang out, they ask edifying questions of each other rather than viewing each other with suspicion from a distance.

Friends celebrate successes. Cooperating pastors enjoy hearing about their friends making strides for the kingdom of God. 

Friends help each other. Cooperating pastors pray for each other. They look out for each other. They champion the work at each other’s churches. 

Friends don’t have territories. Cooperating pastors don’t slice up the community into market territories. There is no need to fence off a territory when you desire to be around someone.

 I realize the tone of this post is idealistic. You can’t get to know every pastor in your area. And not every pastor will want to be your friend. However, you have to try. The solution begins with you. Your approach with other churches should not be one of competition, but cooperation. Your enemy is not the church down the road. Stop competing and start hanging out.

Posted on April 21, 2021

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • While I am not a pastor in the traditional sense, I do get quite annoyed when Christians compete against me. Nowhere in scripture is it written that Christians are to compete with each other. Quite the contrary! The apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the church in Corinth, “…For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise…” God requires repentance of sin, not competition with other Christians. A personal intimate relationship with God through Christ cannot be duplicated using man-made tactics. That is flesh. Nor can what belongs to one believer be taken by another believer “for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Such attempts at duplication can be satanic as depicted in one O.T. story, “And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” I understand that as Paul writes “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” but man-inspired sermons, programs, discussion groups, trips, et cetera do not produce the ministry of the Spirit. Somewhere there should be discernment between Spirit and flesh.

  • Virginia W says on

    R. Barlow, I know just what you mean. Several pastors in our local pastors group boast about their churches, even when the church objectively is not doing well. This competitive spirit is a barrier to honest sharing and vulnerability. There has to be a safe place for pastors to share their struggles. I’m glad you could help create a safe place

  • Sam,
    I think one of the biggest factors that create barriers within the pastoral ministry teams today is the onslaught of propaganda imposed through the media. Different accusations haunt people (including pastors) and resentement unfolds based upon perceptions gained from outside resources (word of mouth, etc.). Probably the biggest interference that cuases disharmony and disunity relates to the soft-hearted ministry teams who don’t live firmly according to God’s Word. Instead of remaining faithful to the “ennarancy” of the entire Bible and living as Christ, people tend to live a life that is acceptable and pleasing to certain people they regularly engage with, or those that have a role in authority over them. This is sad and has resulted in churches, pastors, clergy, and administrators to be ineffective in handling the turmoil that is resulting in the behaviors seen in our families, communities and nation as a whole today.

  • I’ve been regularly meeting with pastors in my area for over 20 years (most of those years I’ve been the only Southern Baptist pastor in the group – in the Northwest we don’t have multiple SBC churches in rural areas). I have learned more than I can express from the men and women (yes, there are denominations with women pastors with whom I associate – excommunicate me if you must). Honestly, these men and women have been my lifeline and my biggest supporters (besides my wife and current leadership team at my church). There is no possible way I could have served as pastor in this community for nearly 30 years (I arrived in Winston in August 1991 – this August will mark 30 years).

    • Virginia W says on

      Steve, wonderful to hear of the support you’ve received from fellow pastors, including women pastors (I’m one myself). I wish I could say the same for my ministry group. Many of them are too afraid to share weaknesses and struggles in ministry and often sound competitive. I’m trying to model vulnerability and teachability in the group, but rarely encounter the same spirit. I know it often comes down to fear : pastors fear looking inadequate and want to look like they have their act fully together, yet none of us fully do…

  • harold ward says on

    in response to this post this morning, I will now be going beyond me only praying for other Pastor but to personally reach out to them. for me the too busy schedule with what I am involve in seem to be my mistake. thanks so much.

  • I’m with you on the competing items. I stopped going to the denominational annual meeting many years back. It bothered me terribly to talk with other pastors. “It’s fantastic at our church”. “Attendance is so amazing, we had “XXX” in church” They didn’t know that one of their parishioners was a friend of mine and was keeping me up to date on how the church was.
    Many years ago, I made the decision that I would create a new environment within where we would help those young and struggling start up congregations in our city.
    At present we have five congregations worshipping in our building. We are all different and from different denominations but all with the main interest and that is: reaching the city for Christ. Two are foreign language and we pray for each other as we seek to grow in numbers and grow in our commitment to Christ.
    Thanks for all you share with us.

  • I like this article, and I appreciate the basis of pastoral friendship. However, I would be concerned about becoming friends with the pastor down the road who has another agenda for his church – an agenda that is not biblical and/or gospel driven.

    Thoughts on these situations?

    • Sam Rainer says on

      Michael – First, I would not assume a motive unless you know for sure. If you confirm such a motive exists, then I would recommend avoiding such a pastor and focus on building relationships with other pastors.