I was recently reminded of a very sad reality – some pastors and churches view other pastors and churches in their city as their competition. Before I had an opportunity to develop my own philosophy of ministry, I pretty much adopted this smaller philosophy of ministry embraced by others around me. Many of those smaller philosophies within that larger philosophy became my own and have directed many of my steps. A few of those philosophies I altered slightly and a couple of those philosophies I rejected vehemently. One of the rejected philosophies that nears the top of that list is the oxymoronic philosophy that my brother is my competitor. I recall my first exposure to and hence consideration of a new philosophy – my brother is my fellow soldier (no need to realize the biblical premise). I was sitting on the family room floor of my less than modest home on College Street in Jacksonville, FL. Because I was soon to move to a new city, I was desperate for a new friend. So I called a pastor in Palm Coast who had planted a church himself within that year. As I told him of my plans to invade his turf and raid his flock, I was astonished at his overly zealous thrill about my soon arrival. Never had a response from someone been so wrong and felt so right.
The man who I spoke to that summer night of ‘97 was Billy Wight, church-planting pastor of Palm Coast Community Church. In typing this post and reflecting on that phone call, I get choked up just thinking of how my heart felt in that moment. Fast-forward 16 years, and we are the dearest of friends. Countless meals and prayers have been shared, and our friendship has never been stronger. That friendship now also includes several deep and personal friendships with other pastors in our city. I owe the kingdom mindedness of my philosophy of ministry to Billy Wight.
Sixteen years later, my philosophy plays out regularly. Just a few hours ago, I received an email from a couple, and they shared with me how my advice had led them to set the issue aside, stay at their current church and move forward in ministry. Mind you, this couple is dear friends, live closer to my church, would have instant opportunities for ministry and would only have to endure slightly worse preaching at my church. I love my philosophy of ministry even when I don’t like it.
Within the last 2 weeks, I called a ministry friend in town and immediately informed them that one of their close ministry partners had visited our church, and I wanted them to be aware and have a conversation. The guest at our church was a key player in their ministry, and my desire was to not see that change for my benefit. The next week, I received an email from a lady raving about her experience at our church the previous weekend and about how her family would be, after years of faithfulness, leaving their current church home to join our fellowship. I clearly responded with an email that stated that it was not time to leave and cleave, and I asked to have her husband call me on my cell, at which the time of the call, I informed him of my recommended no leave and cleave policy.
You may not understand or agree with my philosophy of ministry, and perhaps that will only fuel it’s outworking just as I intend – you’re staying where you are.
Billy, I can’t thank you enough and may it be a long while before we swap any more sheep!! I will not compete with your church, but would like to compliment your church.