3 Reasons You Believe the Church Competition Lie

The story is commonplace.

We begin a conversation about the principles of ChurchOS, and before you know it, the church leader is moaning and groaning about churches in their area.

  • That church has a multipurpose building that we will never have.
  • They have a multi-million dollar endowment.
  • Their pastor is an outstanding teacher.
  • They benefit from an incredible location.
  •                                                             (Fill in the blank. We’ve all had these thoughts!)

The list goes on, but the common belief is that our church would be doing better if we weren’t competing with other churches.

And behind that belief is another belief. We are specifically competing with those churches for attendees.

While we understand the sentiment, this lie keeps churches from reaching their potential.

So why do we believe this lie?

1. Church growth philosophies of the 1970s & 1980s.

Many church leaders cut their teeth on church growth principles from a bygone era, which were all about programming. It was about creating opportunities for people to connect to your church, and we became fixated on our programming, often trying to out-do the church down the street.

The unintended consequence was capitalism creeping into church leadership.

In our increasingly post-Christian world, it is a misconception to believe that Non-Christians are attracted to your church based on your programming.

The people attracted to your church based on programming are typically consumer Christians looking for better goods and services. Trading around believers isn’t your church’s mission.

2. It hurts when people leave our church.

We need to be honest about this.

When you walk through the highs and lows of life with someone and they exit, often without saying goodbye, it punches you in the gut.

We know your pain. We’ve been there.

When you learn that people have left your church because of the offerings of another, your emotional wounds will want you to solve that problem to keep it from happening again. You are in danger of believing the church competition lie and losing sight of Jesus’ mission.

You must acknowledge those wounds and seek help if necessary, and you must guard against those negative emotions becoming the driving force in your ministry.

If you are struggling with these wounds, seek a professional counselor or a seasoned mentor to help guide you through the pain. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

3. A fundamental misunderstanding of the mission.

Every organization should name its shadow mission because it is so alluring.

The shadow mission in most churches is to increase attendance. This creates a deep temptation to believe the church competition lie.

This is NOT the mission that Jesus’ gave his followers.

What is the antidote for the Church Competition Lie?

1. Focus on the ONE.

At Intentional Churches, this is our obsession.

When talking about the lost sheep in Luke 15, Jesus said, “Won’t he leave the Ninety-Nine in the wilderness and go search for the ONE that is lost until he finds it?”

Jesus placed an unsettling emphasis on going out and searching for the lost. If we could trace the decline of church impact to one thing, it would be the erosion of this conviction.

Sociologists say that we live in an ATTENTION economy. (For example, social media makes all their money by capturing and keeping your attention.) Attention is limited. You can only pay attention to one thing at a time.

As a church leader, you must pay attention (and help others pay attention) to the right things.

Paying attention to the other churches in your area (and the people who left your church) distracts you from paying attention to the ONE. The ONE does NOT wake up on Sunday morning shopping for a church, so focus your attention on going after them. They need the love and leadership of Jesus more than ever.

2. Do the math on your Relational Reach Zone

Spreading the gospel has always been a relational activity. That’s why we encourage churches to concentrate on their Relational Reach Zone.

Your Relational Reach Zone is based on your Niney-Nine (the Jesus-followers in your church).

For example, most churches know their weekly attendance. We estimate that a church has a spiritual influence equal to 2-3 times its average weekend attendance. (If your church averages 150 in weekly attendance, your church influences 300-450 people every month.)

Those 300 people live and work in a variety of different locations within proximity to your church. Their networks (friends, family, work associates, etc) are wide and diverse.

Assuming that those 300 people have regular, meaningful interactions with 10 Non-Christians every month, your church’s Relational Reach Zone is 3,000 people.

Yes, you read that right. A church with a weekly attendance of 150 has a Relational Reach Zone of 3,000 people, every month. Imagine the potential!

If this seems a little tricky, Doug explains it in this video.

As we think about Jesus’ model of leadership and the current cultural realities, we believe every church should be concentrating on mobilizing their Ninety-Nine to reach their ONE.

Pay attention to that!

IT is the antidote to the Church Competition Lie.


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