Arrogance or jealousy.
When we compare ourselves with others, we’ll end up with a boatload of one or the other.
In the last few months I’ve heard two true stories about overcoming jealousy in ministry. Neither of them happened to me. They happened to Phil Munsey & Rick Warren and Andy Stanley & Johnny Crist.
Both stories have surprising similarities (about parking and traffic, of all things) and contain great lessons about overcoming a problem that happens to Small Church pastors more than we’d like to admit. Here’s how to kill the megachurch jealousy monster for good.
Story #1: Thanking God for a Heritage of Faithfulness
Phil Munsey has become a friend of this ministry in the past year. A few months ago, he shared with me about a time when the Orange County, California church he was pastoring was struggling.
As bad as it is to live in a populous area and not see the expected growth, his situation was complicated by his commute. In order to drive to church every Sunday, he had to fight through the traffic coming in and out of Saddleback Church (where Rick Warren pastors).
He told me he grew jealous of Rick on those Sunday drives. That jealousy caused him to arrive at church every Sunday in a less-than-holy mood – a situation that never leads to good pastoring. After doing this for too long, the Lord dealt with this toxic attitude.
Phil was reminded of the godly legacy of Rick Warren’s parents and grandparents, who pastored faithfully in Small Churches. He was now able to see the explosive growth of Saddleback Church and Rick’s worldwide influence as the sprouting of the seeds of generational service to the kingdom of God. Only God knows the years of behind-the-scenes toil that goes in to most overnight successes.
Now, instead of getting angry and jealous every time he got stuck in Saddleback’s traffic, Phil took the opportunity to thank God for Rick and his family’s heritage of faithfulness. His thankfulness killed his jealousy. Rick and Phil became friends. And Rick preached at the dedication of their new church building a few years ago.
Phil is not a pastor now. He has recently transitioned into a ministry of encouraging and connecting pastors – including being a huge encouragement to me and this ministry. And now his story can encourage you, too.
Story #2: Using Gratefulness to Kill Jealousy
Last Monday I got a Facebook message from Bob Krauss, a NewSmallChurch.com reader, telling me about a radio message he heard Andy Stanley give. Bob told me, “It’s just what you talk about and was really cool to hear on the radio from a mega church pastor!”
If you want me to convince me to listen to a radio show, that’ll do it.
Andy’s talk was Part 2 of “A Look at Our Hearts” from Moody Radio’s Today in the Word broadcast. You can listen to it by clicking here. The whole talk is good, but the segment Bob told me about happens from 8:50 – 13:30.
Here’s a transcript of that 5-minute excerpt:
The way God will break the power of jealousy in your heart is you’ve got to learn to celebrate the things you’re most jealous of and the people you’re most jealous of.
Something happened to me years ago that I will never, ever, ever forget. And I like to tell this story (I’ve only told it one other time) because I like to say this guy’s name out loud. Tonight it gets to go on the radio.
Nine years ago I started a campus for my Dad. … We opened up the first Sunday with about 600 people. … The next Sunday we had 800. Two weeks later we had 1,000, we had 1,250, then 14, then 16, then 18.
Within a year we had 2,000 people and we’re blowin’ and goin’ and we’re in a warehouse and we’re doing contemporary music and drama and everything’s great. Then we had 2,200 and it was like, a phenomenon.
Literally, we would shut the parking lots down and tell them, “we’re closed. Go to the next church.” We would just send people away. It was a very unusual thing. It was just incredible.
Right down the street from where we were meeting was a little Vineyard Church – brand new church – they’d just renovated a racquetball center. It could seat about 200 people.
…One day I get a call in my office. He says, “Andy?” I say, “Yes?”
He says, “This is Johnny Crist. I’m the pastor of the Vineyard church.” I said, “Great! Where’s that?”
He said, “right there on Cotillion.” I said, “that’s where our church is.”
He said, “yeah, I know. Every Sunday morning I’m trying to get to church, I get caught in your traffic trying to get to my church. I just wanted to call and tell you something. Every Sunday morning when I’m on my way to church and I get caught in that traffic, I look over there at that full parking lot and I say ‘sick ‘em, Andy!’”
He said, “I just want you to know that I pray, ‘God, just use him today, just use him today!’”
He said, “I wanted to call you today to let you know I pray for you every Sunday morning when I’m caught in your traffic trying to get to my little church.” (Applause from the audience)
Listen, that ain’t normal preacher response.
I’ll never forget that phone call because … you know what I knew about me? If I was the pastor of the church that could seat 200 and we had about 100 and I had to drive down, right past the what’s-happening-now-big-time-packing-it-out-send-them-away-church, I don’t think I would have called that guy to say “go get ‘em!”
I would have driven by saying, “Well, they’re probably just entertaining those people. There ain’t nothing going on over there. They don’t even preach the Gospel. You can’t preach the Gospel and get that kind of crowd.”
About two months later Johnny called me up again. He said, “Andy, we’re gonna dedicate our building. Would you come preach our dedication service for our building?”
I thought, “Johnny, you’re not thinking like a preacher. Preachers think this way. ‘OK, if I get Mr. Bigshot Pastor in here, preaching in my little church and my people hear him and like him better, they’re gonna leave and go to his big church!’”
I said, “You better believe I would, Johnny. I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”
Here’s what Johnny knew that some of us don’t know. The best way to guard your heart from the jealousy that creeps in, especially in ministry, is you just make it a habit to celebrate out loud, in public. Broadcast it. You celebrate the successes of others and God uses that to keep your heart free and clear of jealousy.
About a year later he got caught in South America. He was on a mission field in South America and couldn’t get home. He needed someone to fill in for him on a Sunday. Now get this, I’m like, “We got 3,000 people! We can’t even get them in!” He calls me, “Andy, would you fill in for me next Sunday?” I said, “you better believe I will. I’ll get somebody to fill in for me. It would be an honor to go preach in your church.”
That kind of humility is not only rare, it is powerful! I’ll never forget it.
The way you keep your heart free from jealousy is to publicly celebrate the things you’re most tempted to be jealous of. And the people you’re most tempted to be jealous of.
– Andy Stanley
Healthy Churches Are Rooted In Healthy Soil
Thank you, Phil, Rick, Andy and Johnny for two of the best examples I’ve ever heard of killing the jealousy monster for the glory of God and his church. And it’s a great recipe for personal, pastoral health, too.
Healthy pastors and churches don’t grow in toxic soil. Jealousy, like arrogance, will poison you and your church.
Besides, there’s no their church and our church when we’re in the church. It’s all Christ’s church. All the success is his success. And that’s always worth celebrating.
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