I like to call it the Willow Creek mentality.
Many of you know Willow Creek is the mega church in the Chicago, IL area that has rewritten the books on how to do church. They have – marketing plan, evangelism plan, preaching plan, and even an amazing way at how they do education (they write their own curriculum). This is not a post to speak against the Willow Creek Community per se but it is a post to speak against comparing ourselves with churches like that and how damaging it could be.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 4:1-2)
Preachers, youth ministers, family ministers, education ministers, children’s ministers, worship ministers, and minister of temperature acclimation (tongue-in-cheek) all have egos. There is something about someone else doing something better than you that just gets under my skin. In the world of youth ministry (and with other ministries as well) there are guys who plan better, who are more creative, who are more gifted at speaking, who are more relational, who are more this and more that than I will ever be. At one level I can be jealous of those people and that jealousy will then turn towards resentment or even worse, anger. Or, at another level I can celebrate that person as a vital aspect of the kingdom of God and without them our whole brotherhood would struggle. In university I used to hear the bible majors say, “I wish I could speak like brother so-and-so,” or, “I plan on being a scholar like Dr. so-and-so.” All that is fine but it leads to the Willow Creek mentality in which we compare ourselves to something bigger and when we never meet up to those standards we are done.
What about elderships? When they look to hire someone they look for someone like so-and-so at that big church down the road. We need a man who is: energetic, gifted, dynamic, ability to relate to a broad group of ages and also has the ability to solve the energy crisis (last one is a little cynical so I apologize). But seriously, how often do elderships compare their ministers with ministers from other congregations and then when they do not “stack up” they look for other ministers who would best fit the people who mirror the qualifications of the big churches. “Because bigger must mean better right?”
It is hard to resist the big church versus little church mentality. One which compares and/or uses as THE standard for all other churches/ministers. God has called you to be right where you are at. I told my youth group yesterday while we were driving back from eating lunch together: “You are going to have to accept that there will ALWAYS be someone who is better than you are, smarter than you are, better looking than you are and stronger than you are! The quicker you do that the more peaceful your life will be!” What can we do?
- Accept where we are at as a gift from God! Avoid, for the most part, looking for the bigger churches and stick with the people you have!
- Humble yourself or you will be humbled (James 4:10). It is better if you do it on a daily basis than if God does it for you! I would say Peter’s denial of Christ was a humbling experience that gave him perspective.
- Rejoice in others! Paul made it a practice to rejoice with his brethren. Celebrate people’s victories and help them with their defeats. It does the Church no good if we scorn people’s victories because it was not ours and if we secretly celebrate when they struggle (I know you have done that before).
- Pray for help! You can’t do this on your own!
- Teach others about your journey.