In several locations where I served I had to cope with the “church down the street” syndrome. It played out like this. The church down the street grew like wildfire. My church did not. The church down the street had plenty of money. My church struggled to pay bills.
While attending an evangelism conference a speaker helped me put this struggle into perspective. The speaker said, “Light houses don’t compete.”
Jesus dealt with a similar issue. On one occasion in Capernaum He approached His disciples and asked, “What were you discussing on the way?” (Mk. 9:33) The disciples were shocked into silence because Jesus caught them in a down moment in their hearts. They were being ruled by envy and jealousy. Jesus helped put their thoughts into perspective by saying, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mk. 9:35)
As I studied this incident I am reminded of several truths. First, even Jesus’ handpicked, chosen disciples struggled with envy, jealousy and pride. They needed Jesus’ gentle nudge to keep them on target. Maybe there is hope for simple people like myself.
Second, following Jesus is a journey. It is not a one and done. There is always trial and error and growth to be experienced. Since discipleship is a journey, Jesus will be working on me for the duration. The important thing is that I continue learning from my master teacher.
Third, Jesus sees the bumps in the road as we travel down the road of life. He knows the bumps can make life more difficult as we try to maneuver around them. He knows our envy is not good for us! He knows our anger is not good for us!
When we struggle with envy, because of the church down the street, the church down the street is not the issue. When we struggle with envy, because of the popular preacher, the popular preacher is not the issue. Jesus knows such struggles will make us miserable and make the ministry journey less enjoyable. Our task is to focus on the work of the lighthouse we have been given.
Finally, I need to be reminded that my work is important. The size of our work may not compare to Billy Graham or Saddleback, but the value is there. God is not concerned with the size of our work but our faithfulness to the work we have been given. Every lighthouse has a purpose. Light houses do not compete.