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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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.