“But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love.” (1 Thessalonians 3:6a)
Competition between churches is beneath the dignity of our corporate call from God. In a society that often denies God, we should be celebrating the successes of other congregations. When Christianity went out of vogue, and memberships declined, jealousy became too common. Rather than continuing to reach out to those outside the faith, churches have too often sought to compete, trying to shuffle the Christian deck by taking members from each other’s congregations. This has created a church popularity contest, in which theology has often been sacrificed on the altar of consumerism.
Timothy came to Paul and shared the growth and mission taking place in the church at Thessalonica. They rejoiced in the people who now experienced life anew through Jesus Christ. At no point were Timothy or Paul concerned with growing an institution. What made the Christian faith unique and impactful was the Good News of faith and love that transformed lives. Rather than trying to outdo other congregations in developing the best market strategy, our task should be to live the Good News, so others will want it, too. We express the Good News through sharing our faith and expressing God’s love.
Today, pray for our congregation. Do not pray for our budget numbers to increase or for more new members than the church down the street. Pray that each one in our church family hears the Good News, renews their faith, and expresses that faith in love. Then, prayerfully focus on your own faith. Ask yourself, “Do I express the Good News with stronger faith? Am I a loving person, even in unloving situations? Then ask God to strengthen your commitment, so you can share that Good News with others. If we do that, the church’s finances and membership numbers will no longer be an issue. Praise God!