Three Truths about Comparisons in Ministry

Twas the night before Christmas…

Do you remember the anticipation of Christmas Eve as a kid?
I was anxiously tossing and turning in bed. The excitement was preventing me from experiencing anything even remotely similar to sleep.
I stayed up almost all night — thinking of the amazing day that was ahead of me.
New toys.
The smell of cinnamon buns.
Stockings full of candy.
Games with cousins.
And spending time with my family.
It was the night before Christmas. I was nine years old.

Finally, the sun rose.

I ran to our living room and it was full of toys, presents, bows and cheesy Christmas music on the radio. I dashed over to my section (my mom set the gifts up in sections, because she was strategic.) I knew that I was going to see the toy I asked for a week before — a very expensive remote control car.
As I unwrapped and explored, my heart sank as I peeled back the paper to see a boat.
Then another boat.
Then another boat!
Not toy boats.
Model boats.
Dozens of them.

Almost. Every. Gift. Was. A. Model. Ship.

Turns out Santa remembered a time I was really interested in model boats while visiting the beach. Thus, he decided to take advantage of a great sale and buy tons of them.
So, I became the only nine year old in America to own a massive collection of model boats.

I looked over to my brother.
It looked like an isle in Toys R Us to me. He had all these amazing, colorful, exciting toys.
I had boats designed for old people to put on their bookshelf.

I was angry. I was jealous. I wanted to set his toys on fire.
I compared my gifts to his and my Christmas was ruined.

This is the danger of comparison.

Comparison is when we chose to look at what others have instead of what we have.

If you are not careful, you can live in the land of -er.
People say, “I want to be smart-er. I want to be pretty-er. Strong-er. Rich-er.”

We do this in the church too!
I want my church to be bigger. I want my people to be younger. I want my budget to be seven figures.
Why doesn’t my church have dozens of fog machines, lasers, and a ball pit?

When you choose to live in the land of -er, you cannot be present where you’re supposed to be.

Let me be honest with you.
As a pastor, I end up comparing myself to other pastors. I can sometimes compare my ministry to other ministries. My church to other churches.

I think things like: “Why is this church growing faster?” “How does he have the time to write such amazing messages?” “How did that picture get 500 likes?” “Why can’t I wear skinny jeans?”

I sometimes attend a church service at another church and experience jealousy instead of the Spirit.

It’s sad, but true.
We find ourselves wanting what other’s have. That’s coveting. That breaks a commandment. That’s dangerous.

Just like a nine year old surrounded by boats on Christmas.

Here are three tough truths to remember as you deal with comparison.

Comparison will kill your joy.

The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else. Just like when I was a child at Christmas. I could not see the amazing blessing of a mom (Santa) who bought amazing gifts with personal significance. I could not see the fact that she clearly put a lot of time and energy into this. I could not enjoy all the blessings around me…because I was consumed with envy. It blinded me.
Envy does the same to ministry leaders too. Envy ruins your vision. Leadership hinges on vision and working tirelessly until you get there.

Stop looking at others. Start looking ahead.

Comparison will either make you feel inferior or superior — neither are healthy. When you are constantly looking over at someone else, you cannot look forward to what God has for you. I recommend you put on blinders and focus on the path God has paved before you. Instead of beating yourself up because someone’s church is bigger than yours, focus on improving your personal ministry. Instead of getting down because that new young preacher is more energetic than you, strive to develop more energy.
Comparison cultivates immobility. Focus drives the future.

Your ministry will shape people’s destiny.

Your church, your ministry, your community, and your specific calling — they were all predestined by God with a specific purpose. There are struggling marriages in your congregation. There are lost souls in your community. There is a purpose specifically designed for your position.
The trap of comparing your ministry to others dramatically limits what God wants to do within you and through you.

Next time you are tempted to compare your talents or your position, please just take a step back and thank God for what you have.
Stop trying to be Francis Chan, Stephen Furtick, Loui Giglio, Batman, or Beth Moore. God wants you to be you. He just made one of you, with your talents, personality, and appearance, then he broke the mold. You’re the only one. When you are rooted in your identity, you are catapulted to your calling.
My challenge is simple. I am seeing way too many pastors try to be someone they’re not. I know this sounds like cheesy dating advice, but just be yourself.
God wants to bless you — not the person you’re pretending to be.

Strive for gratitude over comparison. Gratitude will make you realize that what God has given you is more than enough.

Cherish it.

About the Author

Jackson Garrell

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Jackson is a pastor, designer, and cheese enthusiast. He lives in New York with his wife and several dozen plants. When he is not building websites, consulting churches, or pastoring, you will probably find him trying to create the perfect omelette.