We need to see fellow, like-minded, Gospel-centered, Word-driven, Christ-exalting churches as partners, not competitors.
This past Sunday, my family and I took a stay-cation and visited a church in the area. I was due some Sunday vacation time, plus it was my wife’s birthday, so we decided to worship with the saints at Cornerstone Church in Lone Tree, CO. Mike Atherton, the lead pastor at Cornerstone, is a good friend with whom I serve in the trenches in state convention work, along with other endeavors in our city’s Baptist association. They have an impressive facility: a place to get coffee, nice children’s check-in, and even a fireplace–helpful on a single-digit-temperature morning!
But when it comes right down to it, it’s all about worshipers coming together, singing to the Lord, encouraging each other, and hearing the Word, and reaching the community creatively, consistently, and intentionally. I’m thankful for such a gospel partner.
I make a big deal out of this because I haven’t always seen fellow churches in places where I’ve ministered as partners. I’ve sometimes seen them as competitors. When I was a youth pastor in South Florida, God allowed it to grow from about 15 kids to 50. But I’d look at the church up the road and they brought in over 100 kids. Sure, we had a basketball goal and an open field. But they had ping-pong, video games, TVs, the works. And yes, while we made some adjustments, our youth ministry couldn’t pull their numbers.
And I began to realize that that’s OK. Was that church teaching the gospel? Yes. Were kids coming to Christ? Yes, they seemed to be from my vantage point. Then, that’s a Kingdom partner, not a Kingdom competitor.
It was then that God started a maturing process that I’m grateful for to this day. Cornerstone runs twice as many as my church, has Upwards, a sweet new facility, and more. Another church nearby have three services, run 3-4 times our count, and are planting other churches. Fifteen years ago when I was early in ministry and more insecure with who I was in Christ, I would look at them with envy and say, “I wish we could be like them!” There’s a danger.
One, God brought me to my church, and as for me, I couldn’t be happier with the people with whom He’s called me to serve.
Secondly, God has called us to be the most faithful Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, not a copy of another. Sure, those other churches are churches to learn from and emulate in their gospel faithfulness, but our aim is not for us to say, “Let’s be like them because they are awesome!” The goal is to say, “Thank you, Lord, for those partners–now let’s work to where we may be a faithful example and Kingdom partner to others.”
Do you have a story about seeing other churches as competitors? Are you still struggling with that, or has God brought you through? Share your story in the comments section.
Thanks again, Mike, for your hospitality and warm welcome at Cornerstone. Give us South Denver, or we die!