So, some more thoughts on competition. There are plenty of reasons why we compete as adults. Of course, I can only speak for myself but I hope I can shed some light on this idea. For many years, my main competitive motivation was pride. I wanted to be the best. I felt that I was entitled to be the best. The truth is I’m not the best…no one is. So, in its infancy (or before we “grow up“) competition is a product of our desire for personal esteem. Small amounts of this are okay I suppose but not the level we normally associate with narcissism. And even into adulthood, occasionally we find the individual who is still captured by their own potential for greatness and their willingness to steam-roll others to get there. I must say that the majority of my experience with competition falls into this category. It’s drives our love of football teams and our aspirations of climbing some sort of corporate ladder. It’s the driving force that makes someone at Catalyst wish they were that person speaking on stage and network their brains out behind the scenes to “connect” with the next ministerial conquest.
But there’s a much more devious form of competition that enters when we grow up. Competition based on fear. And unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere, this is the most common form of competition you will encounter. It is the foundation for much of our business practices and even affects our churches. When you are economically secure or work in a safe corporate culture or a church environment that is open, you don’t see this type of competition. But when our families are threatened, our finances are at risk, reputations are jeopardized, or people start throwing around terms like “divisional restructuring,” cooperative trust and loyalty disappear. And this is the mantra of fear-based competition: “I don’t have to be first…just don’t let me be last.” This competition based on fear makes us do some strange things. Though I beleive it’s important to be thankful for what we have, I am amazed at people’s willingness to oversell the value to “2nd tier” schools, vacations, cars, and luxury items simply because “1st tier” is out of reach. I can’t send my kid to an Ivy League college so I’ll talk about how high the average SAT score is and how low the acceptance rate to my public school choice is. I can’t own a beach house in Destin, Florida so I’ll buy one somewhere else and rave about the “up and coming” location. I can’t own a Mercedes but have a Tahoe. It’s the idea that drives the old joke about “Thank God for Mississippi” since Mississippi is worse off than the state you live in.
Churches are designed to be the exception to this simply because the gospel states the opposite. We are all on the same page. Now, you might assume that my next conclusion is that “we are all on the same page because we are all sinners.” And that’s true – I’d put myself in that category. But the church has a more urgent message to convey: we are on the same page because we are accepted in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:6, NKJV). Everyone is “1st tier.” But churches don’t always convey this message well. But that doesn’t mean that each person cannot grasp it on their own. I’ll talk about how to do that in the next post.