Several pew cushions have lost their fluff, one of the speakers in the sanctuary cuts in and out, and you are not entirely sure of the original carpet color in the fellowship hall. Your running list of needed renovations grows, but the building budget has long since shriveled up, thanks to the ac unit going out last summer. As you drive around, you notice a new children’s wing being built on a church across town. Here come the feelings of discouragement. Or maybe your building is in great shape, but you just don’t have the membership that you need. As you go into your favorite coffee shop, you see a bright flyer advertising a massive youth Disciple Now. If you only had more young adults, the youth program could really take off. Perhaps your “if only” is property location, more parking spots, the latest small group curriculum, gifted teachers, innovative ministry, or the best praise band. As church leaders, we sometimes find ourselves comparing our churches to other congregations. It is easy to do, but what if that renovation budget never grows or we never see a crowd of young adults walk through the doors? What do we do when we simply can’t keep up with the Joneses?
First, we must recognize that when our eyes are on the Joneses, they are probably off of Jesus. Put your focus back on Him, the Giver of Hope. Ask Him to help you see your church through His eyes. This doesn’t mean that the run-down fellowship hall now looks like the Sistine Chapel, but it does mean that you might begin to see gifts and opportunities that were in your congregation all along. Perhaps your congregation isn’t equipped to host a Disciple Now. Instead, you discover one teenager who is on the basketball team, two members who make the best chocolate chip cookies, and three retirees who love to watch a good game. Your local team is now set with snacks for away games, support in the stands for home games, and plenty of opportunities for relationship building. Be aware that some treasures require you to dig a whole lot deeper than others, but they are there. He has equipped you with what you need for His calling; however, His calling might look different than our dreams. Work with what He has given you and follow where He leads.
You can also emphasize developing relationships. People are often willing to overlook uncomfortable seats and bad sound systems if they have an authentic relationship with your church. Thankfully, building relationships does not require a budget or a building. A dilapidated sanctuary might even be a blessing if it spurs your congregation to begin relationships outside of the church walls. Let people’s first impression of your church be the love of Christ shared through caring relationships in the community. They will be much more likely to come into the church and stay, regardless of the carpet color.
Shift your thinking about the church. Remember that, as followers of Jesus, we are all part of the larger Church. Rejoice at the work that God is doing, even if it involves other parts of His body of believers. As our envy or discouragement turns to rejoicing, we shift our thinking from competition to collaboration. Actively seek to collaborate with other congregations. Partner together in outreach, discipleship, or worship, not only will you learn and benefit from other believers (and they will learn and benefit from you), but you will also exemplify unity in Christ to your community. There really are no Joneses for us to compare ourselves to, because His redeemed are all part of the same family, the family of God. Be encouraged. Look to the Author of the Universe and joyfully discover that He has given your congregation a role in His magnificent story.