Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

There seems to be such competition among churches today. The pastor says the right words but it seems to me that many are engaged in trying to be the biggest and the best. I think Paul might be embarrassed by the competition going on in the churches (and pastors) of our culture today. I wonder if we have lost perspective. What do you think?

Sincerely, Rick

As a young pastor, I thought that the best pastors were the ones with the biggest churches. I wanted to build a big church. I learned a lot from Bill as I worked in the children's ministry during seminary. He pastored a rapidly growing church. The church was built on excitement. We had Mrs. America give her testimony. We had a returning veteran Vietnam prisoner of war tell of how Christ helped them through his seven-year-ordeal in the hands of the Communists. I remember the Sunday morning a Samurai swordsman split in half a water melon perched precariously on the pastor's stomach. Every other Sunday was high-attendance day. Bill knew how to get people to come to church.

At staff meetings on Tuesday he took the visitor lists from Sunday and assigned each of us on the staff singles and families who we were to cultivate and talk into joining the church the next Sunday. We were to call him every Saturday with a report on who was going to join the next morning at church. We lied a lot. "Well Bill," we would say on Tuesday, "I don't know what happened. They promised they would join."

When I graduated from seminary, Julie and I headed west to pastor. I knew the best way to please Jesus was to build a big church. Bill taught and told me how. He said to pick a church that was just ahead of us and work to "beat it" in attendance. When that church was conquered, move on and conquer the next one. 

Competitive Christianity flourishes as unadulterated pride. It is the sin of seeking glory for self instead of for Jesus. It is the sin of leading the people to think that "I did it," instead of that "God did it."

Competitive Christianity can actually lead us to the place where we are in competition with Jesus.

Examples of Competitive Christianity fill the Scriptures. The people were thirsty. So God told Moses "speak to the Rock and I will bring forth water." Unfortunately, Moses was angry and screamed, "Must I also bring forth water from this rock for you," and he struck the rock and the water flowed. God said, "Since you stole my glory you man never enter the Promised Land."

Competitive Christianity is spurned by a personal desire to lead the people to praise the leader instead of Jesus. Maybe I will put it like this: the leader thinks, "I am interested in having my followers think that I did this or I worked with God so that we together made this occur."

Jesus put it like this in John 5:44: "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

Joab pleaded with David not to take a census of the fighting men in Israel. God wanted to show the people what He could do in battle. David was more concerned that people knew what he could in battle (David's sin here has to do with the temple tax, but that is another story).