This past week I heard for the first time the phrase, “competitive parenting.” It’s the title given to the trend in our culture to turn parenting into a competition. From how many activities children are in, to the schools they attend, friends they befriend, clothes they wear, and on and on. You probably know that parent whose Facebook page is a shrine to the pursuit of creating the image that they have the perfect life, children, and family. With almost every post and picture, you have to hold yourself back from replying something like “gag me with a multi-colored pitchfork.”
I remember when I was young boy, I had a deep love and passion for music and playing the piano. Truly, in my younger years, music saved my life and certainly my sanity. I also remember the pressures that came with piano competitions. Who invented that crap? What a diabolical way to destroy the joy of music… make it into a competition.
For sometime, I have grown in my distaste for much of modern Christianity, particularly most portions of the Evangelical movement. In instances, I have searched for the words to articulate what it is that so taunts my spiritual gag reflexes. I have come to believe it’s that we have turned so much of it into, dare I say, a competition.
Competitions all have certain things in common; a score that is kept, a method of judgement and observation, a performance that is performed, a system of earned rewards, and the potential for some level of fame and fortune. Winners and losers, people on the team, people who aren’t. Welcome to modern Christianity. Better said.. competitive Christianity.
I have been a pastor for 20 years this month. I can tell you straight up, most every pastor (probably more like every) has, at some time or another, bought into the elixir of competitive Christianity in the form of church growth, discipleship, and becoming a celebrity pastor. Oh yes, we have made our inner intentions seem so spiritual with declarations of Jabez prayers, “building the kingdom,” “excellence in ministry”and making “fully devoted followers of Jesus.” Blah, blah, blah. These new generations see through that crap, even though we often don’t see through it ourselves. Oh, how we have come to enjoy the smell of our own spiritual flatulence. Self promotions, book tours, declarations of how many scores of people that get saved after our preaching, and castings of great visions are so often a spiritual vale to the core impulse of self-righteousness made manifest by attempting to post a winning score. It’s a competition. Build the best church brand, pimp out the latest methods, construct more buildings, grow your ministry bigger and better than the guy’s down the street, and be all you can be for Jesus. Pastors, maybe more than anyone, have been tractor-beamed into keeping a score, performing a performance, and hoping they can post a score that judges them “successful” by the observers and maybe even a bit famous among their peers. What could be wrong with wanting more people, more people getting saved, more and better buildings, more books, more and better programs? One word… “everything.”
No wonder we have tons of Christians that are deeply into “Competitive Christianity” No, we would never call it that. Heavens no. But it’s true. Forget what we have done with “Church,” just look at the slogan of the leading Evangelical college in America, Liberty University. What’s their slogan… “training champions for Christ.” No offense Liberty fans, but seriously, for real?
Training, building, making… really?
Last time I checked, nobody builds people but Jesus, nobody can take any credit for that but Jesus, and the truth is, Christ has already made every person a champion, there is no building to do, just believing in the people-building Jesus has already accomplished!
Problem is, there is no competition to be had when Jesus has already completed it all, and is the One who completes it all.
I hear you already, “but what about ‘making disciples'” “That’s the call of Jesus upon our life!”
Yes, it is one aspect of our calling, but “making disciples” is far from “us” making anything! Rather it’s about declaring what Jesus has already made (completed), that people might awaken to the person and life God has already accomplished and placed within them. He is the author and perfector of faith. We are already complete in Him.
Oh snap, I hate it when the Bible gets in the way of our performance-driven, competitive Christian life. Where’s the applause, where’s the performance, where’s the scoreboard post, where’s the doing, where’s the partial or implied credit, where’s the fortune, where’s the conference-speaker mugshot, where’s the self-justification in all of that for me? It’s not, it’s in Jesus. Sorry, not a college, not a pastor, not a brand, not a concert tour, not a building, not a ministry, not a vision, not a book, not even a slick, modern, acoustically and stylistically brilliant worship set. There are no notches to be had on our belt, just nails in His hands and feet.
But we don’t like that, it’s stripped of competition, it renders our performance unrendering, it puts us all on the same playing field; no one famous but Jesus, all equally in need of Grace, no one better, no one further along, no ministry better, no scoreboard, no credit.
Oh my, what if what we always thought was a kind of competition is really a completion? Already complete in Jesus, Jesus carrying into completion the good work He has begun in us.
Perhaps the trendy evangelical cries of “don’t waste your life,” “get radical,” and “be all in for Jesus” have resulted in us ironically completely missing the life He truly has for us as we have become radically off the mark and outside the way of Jesus, all because what we thought (and even hoped) to be a kind of competition for us to post a score, is really a completion from a victory He has already won.