I am naturally competitive; board games, games of FIFA 16 against the boys, real sports, and so on. I naturally want to compete and win, I'd love to think that has mellowed as I have got older, but maybe I'm just deluding myself. That competitiveness is not always a bad thing. But one of the problems we have in the UK is that we live and breathe in a competitive culture.
A culture that likes to size people up and based on any number of factors rank (or judge) people on a sliding scale of successfulness or capability. We do it when we first meet people; questions like 'what's your job?' lead us to rank people competitively against others and against ourselves. It's seen in the way stay at home mums feel compelled to say that they are "just" a mum (how unbiblical is that as a way to describe a precious God given calling). And tragically we carry that competitive way of thinking across into our Christian life and into our churches.
Paul writes to the church in Corinth and raises with them areas where they have simply brought with them into church the ungodly norms and attitudes of the society around them. I think this competitiveness is one of those that we bring with us into church without thinking. It's there in our liking church to be full of people like us. It's there in the competitiveness among ministers about growth or size of church. It's there in our thinking about 'low hanging fruit' - a phrase I have to say I hate! It's there in the despondency pastors who are discouraged feel when they look at others whose ministry God is presently blessing. It's there in comments about how reaching certain types of people will not bring in the money necessary to sustain a church.
But it's also there in the way we can sometimes find ourselves thinking of one another in church, who we value, who we seek out, who we avoid, who we invite for lunch. That simply should not be the case. The gospel is the great leveller, it should retune our hearts from their selfish minor key to a major key that is tuned to serve and love others. We need to kill competitiveness if we want to build thriving churches where grace grows and overflows.