Competition in the Body

There’s a contest going on right now among ministries who are all vying for a $50,000 grant. The contest was set up by a foundation, with the hope of finding the best ministry making the most life change somewhere in the world. The campaign organizers are getting ministries to sign up, submit application, and then encourage their respective members and friends to go online and vote for them. The one with the most votes wins (with second and third prize winners too).

I’ve been troubled by this approach to grant proposal writing since the day I first heard about it. We (LTi) were asked to be in the beta test group. We denied the request. I sent in my comments, even voiced my concerns to one of the organizers on the phone. But to no avail…the contest was launched and a few dozen organizations to date have subscribed. I’ve seen a few ministry announcements about the contest enter my inbox and was even invited via email to quickly go and vote for one ministry vying for the big prize. Each time I’ve seen or heard about this contest, I’ve had a check in my spirit.

Does this competitive approach belong in the Christian community? For that matter, does competition of any stripe belong among Christians, churches, or organizations? In the case of this one particularly blatant competition, it appears to me that all should be winners since I don’t see anything that smacks of loser anywhere among their applicants. Isn’t there a “better way” to approach this form of generosity? Isn’t there simply a better way than competition?

Frankly, I see zero evidence for promoting competition within or among the body of Christ in the biblical text. In fact, quite the contrary. Instead, I hear for example, Jesus’ words that speak of unity and oneness, and from the Apostle Paul teachings on humility and favoring others above yourself. In John 17 we listen in on Jesus’ prayer for unity among the Godhead, his 1st Century disciples, and among the church today. In 1 Corinthians 12 we read about the body of Christ, where every part matters, all are necessary to the functioning of the whole, each member interdependently connected to one another by God himself. In the body there is to be no division whatsoever.

The enemy of our souls – the only one we’re to be in competition with – loves to stir up competition among the body of Christ. And, unfortunately, the body is riddled with competition today; not just in the foundation mentioned above. Competition’s everywhere you turn…Christians, churches, schools, publishing houses, and organizations all vying continuously for what’s perceived to be limited time, talent and treasure.

Most specifically, a spirit of competition resides within your heart and mine. If we’re honest with ourselves and one another, we too struggle with competition and a drive to be seen, heard, and recognized more than others. Where are you most competitive today? Why? Confess that before the Lord, ask for his gracious forgiveness, and lean instead in the direction of open-handed generosity of heart, mind and will to all who cross your path.

Instead of competition in the body of Christ I would suggest there is a higher calling…and it includes such virtues as lovingly gracious cooperation, patiently prayerful community, and an over-the-top generous commitment to one another no matter what. That’s how and when the world will truly come to know Christ. This, I suggest, is the better way.

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