How to stop comparing yourself to others and find success in fulfilling God’s ministry
By Shawn Lovejoy
There’s just something about the weight of vocational ministry that tends to cause us to doubt who we are and how God made us.
I think we all know Satan is out to derail us, but I’m not sure we recognize his schemes. If Satan can cause us to feel insecure about who we are, our leadership and calling, he’s got us headed down a slippery slope to ineffectiveness, insecurity, discouragement and defeat.
When we become insecure in our own ministry and calling, we will also inevitably begin to measure ourselves by the success of others. When this happens we often begin to exhibit what I call the three Cs of insecurity: comparing, copying and condemning.
Two years after launching Mountain Lake, we were averaging 200 people in weekly attendance. Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist, and blogs had not yet become the way we kept up with the world. Without these outside sources of social media, I thought our church was the fastest-growing church in America. Zero to 200 in two years! We felt like kings of the world. However, with today’s technology, we can always find a church that’s building bigger, better and faster than we are.
We read the articles online, the status updates and the blog posts, and suddenly, what is happening at our church isn’t good enough. We realize our creativity is anything but. Our growth is not quite as impressive. Our facilities are lacking. We aren’t staffed as well. We’re not baptizing as many people as they are. Simply put, our church pales in comparison. We have to do something.
When our church is not growing as quickly as another, we begin to think, “Maybe if our church were more like their church, we would be growing faster.”
That’s when we begin copying another successful leader’s strategy or tactics, hoping to reproduce what God has done in that ministry.
We surf the Web. We go to their conferences. We take notes. We take pictures. We tweak our vision or rip off theirs altogether.
We begin viewing, listening and downloading. Pretty soon, we’re doing the same message series, singing the same songs, and using the same language on our church websites. Have you been to a “successful” pastors’ conference lately? We even dress the same!
When comparing ourselves to and copying other pastors doesn’t produce the growth in our ministry it has in theirs, we get discouraged. We’re tempted to believe God isn’t blessing us or He has forgotten us. We might even become bitter, since this whole ministry thing isn’t quite turning out the way we dreamed it would. Often our first instinct is not to look inward. Instead, we choose to look outward.
We begin to rationalize, “Well, for their ministry to be growing like that, they must be watering down the gospel.” It’s usually not the case, but it makes us feel better (at least we think it does). We catch ourselves saying negative things about other pastors whose churches are bigger than ours or too close geographically.
We question motives, intentions and methods. Often, it’s our jealousy driving us, not our zeal for holiness.
All three of the dangerous Cs—comparing, copying and condemning—are symptoms of a larger problem many pastors face: they are not measuring themselves or their ministries the way God does.
Too many of us are trying to fulfill someone else’s ministry. Because of this, there are too many cookie-cutter pastors, churches and ministries, and not enough pastors fulfilling their unique callings. The most troubling part of all of this is that without a true change of heart, we’ll repeat this vicious cycle over and over again.
Maybe all of this is why Paul said what he did to his young mentee, Timothy: “But for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5, emphasis added). After studying this passage of Scripture in six translations and in the original language, do you know what I’ve discovered? I could not find one translation that reads, “Fulfill Rick Warren’s ministry,” or “the ministry of X Community Church.”
The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said: “Fulfill your ministry.” Wow!
This means I don’t have to be like anyone else. I don’t have to do ministry like anyone else. I don’t have to preach as well as he does. My church doesn’t have to grow as fast as their church. I don’t have to fulfill anyone else’s ministry. I just need to be what God has called me to be and do what He has called me to do, and I will be successful in His eyes. That is all that matters, isn’t it?
I don’t have to put a yoke on myself Jesus doesn’t place on me. If I do, I’m going to weigh myself down, and my life and ministry will be more difficult than Jesus intends. However, an amazing sense of freedom comes into our lives and ministries when we become secure in our own skin: secure in who we are, and secure in what God has called us to be and do.
This article is based on the book: The Measure of our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors.