Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. – Philippians 1:15-18
Everyone wants to succeed. Some want to be great. A few want to be the greatest. The common thread is a competitive spirit and some kind of measure of success. Are these desires or goals wrong? Not in and of themselves. It depends on the motivation.
When it comes to disciple-making, Paul identifies two generic categories of motivation, love, and rivalry. This problem is especially the domain of Pastors.
Pastors all want to succeed in their calling and, depending on the spiritual maturity of the Pastor, he may find himself battling with his motivation to succeed. Is it out of his love for the Lord and those saints under his care, or is it out of rivalry with the other Pastor across town who has a larger congregation and more beautiful building to meet in? Or, maybe his competition is centered in his ego, has anybody ever heard of a self-centered Pastor?
Don’t think this is exclusively the domain of Pastors, however. Most of we followers of Jesus have varying degrees of loyalty to our brand of Christianity. You know some people are deeply committed to Reformed Theology, others are deeply committed to Charismatic practices. Still, others will die on the hill of Arminianism. We all have our “brand” of Christianity to which we are committed to one degree or another. There can be at least as much competition among non-clergy Christians over these issues as there is among Pastors.
Paul wrote, “follow me as I follow Christ,” so I think we can accept him as a valid role model. How did he respond to this weakness in the body of Christ?
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Competition in the body of Christ is immaturity in action. It would be great if we were all mature enough in Christ that we would always act in cooperation with one another and not in competition with one another. Now don’t get all worked up about issues of cooperating with folks teaching false doctrine and all that. I do understand there is an issue here that cannot be ignored, but that isn’t an issue of competition, that is an issue of faithfulness to the gospel.
I do pray that we will all learn from Paul’s example and rejoice that Christ is proclaimed regardless of the branding.