Remember that preaching is not a competition. We want to do our best and present ourselves approved before God (2 Tim. 2:15), but we should remind ourselves that other preachers are not our competition. We should be careful not to judge the effectiveness of our ministry and preaching based on our comparison with others (2 Cor. 10:12). We can learn a lot from others, and even encourage each other to improve, but our effectiveness will be greatly hindered if we waste our time comparing ourselves to each other.
The Folly of Comparison and Competition
Saul allowed comparison with David to ruin their relationship and ultimately to rot his soul (1 Sam. 18:6-9). If Saul would have focused on the thousands he slayed and the things he could do, he would have been better off. Furthermore, his comparison blinded him to the fact that he and David were on the same team. When David slayed tens of thousands he was engaged in defeating the same enemies that Saul was in a battle against. When we look at other preachers as our competition, we forget that we are on the same team, serving the same God, and trying to overcome the same enemy (1 Cor. 3:8; Gal. 2:8). Envy always rots the bones of those who are overtaken by it (Prov. 14:30).
Viewing the ministry of preaching as a competition leads us to commit two grave errors. The first error is that we might look down on others who work in a smaller congregation or are not as “well known” because we feel like we are more talented than them. When feeling like we are better and are tempted to look down on others, we should remember that God exalts the lowly (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). Things highly esteemed by men are an abomination to God (Lk. 16:15). We should not despise small things because God is constantly in the habit of turning our small efforts into big results (Zech. 4:10).
On the other hand, when we view preaching as a competition, we might undermine what God is accomplishing through us if we measure ourselves against those we feel are more successful than we are. Rather than desiring greener pastures, greater influence, a larger congregation, or more public notoriety, we should give thanks for all that God has blessed us with here and now (Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18).
We should be thankful that God has chosen to use us in any capacity and let us serve His cause (1 Tim. 1:12). While we may be unknown to men, what matters most is that we are known to God. We will not be judged based on how we compare to other preachers. God will judge us based on how we used the resources and talents that He has given to us. Every preacher has talents and gifts and we should thank God for those things and use them to His glory. We should work to develop and deepen what he has given us without wishing He had given us something else.
Remembering God’s Role
When we compare ourselves to others we forget that God is the one truly responsible for the growth and success that takes place in His kingdom. We can plant and water, but only God can give the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). In fact, the one who plants or waters is nothing compared to God who causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:7). We may claim to know this intellectually, but sometimes we do think that the success or failure of the gospel depends on us. It doesn’t. We must all remember that any good done through our preaching is based on what God has done through us (Acts 14:27; cf. Isa. 55:10-11).
SEE ALSO: “Dear Preacher, Your Work Matters”
God is often doing more in our lives and in the lives of others than we realize. When we look at what He is doing through others with envy or jealousy we accuse him of making a mistake. God does all things well and is interested in the success of every ministry that leads to the furtherance of the gospel and the exaltation of His Son. When we start lining up our ministry next to others we have clearly forgotten that it is not about us (Gal. 6:14).
We know that we are to preach Christ and not ourselves, but the focus of all we do is to be on Christ and not ourselves as well (2 Cor. 4:5). We should do nothing through conceit and selfish ambition (Phil. 2:3-4), but how much do we do based on those fleshly motives? God uses us as His instruments to accomplish His will and we should be grateful. But we should keep in mind that God uses others too, and that’s great.
Viewing Other Preachers Properly
If we are going to guard our hearts against comparison and jealousy here are a few things to keep in mind and apply as we interact with other preachers:
- Do not cut other preachers down when asked about them by others.
- Instead of asking other preachers how large the church is where they preach, ask them how their ministry is going and if you can pray for them about anything.
- Compliment the good you see in other preachers without offering a caveat.
- When others try to pit you against other preachers by telling you your sermons are the best they’ve heard, be sure to direct the glory and attention back to God.
- Pray for other preachers often.
- Be slow to label and slander preachers you do not know.
- Assume the best of others.
- Learn from other preachers but be comfortable being yourself.
- When listening to others preach, do not think about how you would preach the passage. Just listen to learn and grow.
- Compliment before criticizing.
- Remember that God wants your best from you and their best from them, and those may be two different things.
- If the gospel is preached, rejoice. Even if you do not personally care for the one preaching it or the motives behind their preaching (Phil. 1:15-18).
It is a blessing to preach the gospel. So many things attempt to get in the way and corrupt the purity of its proclamation. You are your own competition. Work on being the best you can be for God, and do not compare yourself to fellow proclaimers. We are comrades, not competitors. We’re on the same team, serving the same God. That’s a blessing!