by Erin Bird

I sat down with the insurance agent to finalize our car & home owners insurance – and his words shocked me.

LeAnn and I had only been married for a handful of years. We were back in the U.S. after serving two school years at a missionary children’s school in Venezuela – and I was looking for a job. The agent asked what field I was hoping to work in, and I told him I was applying to be a worship pastor in a church.

And the agent said, “Man, that’s a tough business! I mean, there’s a church on every corner!”

In my attempt to be Iowa nice, I sort of nodded my head in agreement, but inside I was completely disagreeing with the agent’s words. Because I knew the competition of a church was not other churches.

Not Competitors but Teammates

We are in a series here on the blog about The Riverwood Way. This week we come to “…is not to compete, but to complete.”

Too often, churches (meaning their leaders and attenders) will become territorial. They see a city or a neighborhood as being “theirs.” So another church, whether new like Riverwood or growing like a megachurch, can be seen as a threat.

I sure felt this when I moved to Waverly. I was told there were already enough churches. I was ignored by some pastors when I contacted to meet with them (to basically tell them I wasn’t here to take their people!). I was treated by some as if I was encroaching on their territory. In other words, they viewed me and Riverwood as competition.

But I wasn’t in Waverly to compete. (If well over 5000 people were part of no church, I knew another church was needed to help put a dent in that number.) So rather than compete with area churches, I felt like God had brought us here to complete the mission that God has given every church. And what is that mission?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The mission Jesus has given to every one of His followers – and by extension to the Church – is to invite people to find Him and follow Him. We all have the same mission!

And yet, existing churches (and their leaders) get bothered by the arrival of new churches, while many new churches (and their leaders) swoop into town acting like all the existing churches are clueless and wasting real estate, money, and people’s time.

But if Jesus is right (which He is!), then these churches aren’t to be in competition with one another. Rather, they need to realize they are teammates.

Rather than a church position itself as better than other churches with better music, or better preaching, or better kids programming, what if the church simply saw their music or preaching or kids programming as different? And if the church can’t help a particular person follow Jesus, what if they helped them find a church family that CAN help them find and follow Jesus?

This is why we partner with Vineyard on the Food Bank each month. This attitude drives us to be part of the community wide VBS. It’s why we gave our old stage to Crosspoint Church to use in their kids ministry. Because ultimately it isn’t about Riverwood proving it is the best church in town, but rather just one of the churches God is using to invite the spiritually disconnected to find and follow Jesus.

Therefore, if you consider Riverwood your home church, will you help us live this Way out in daily life? Here’s one way you can do this: When you talk about other churches, try to speak of them like they are teammates rather than competitors to be beat. Because I truly believe God will bless the church that doesn’t think they alone are His answer to the needs of that community, but a part of a broader Body of Christ that exists to help people find and follow Jesus.

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