Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions An Obituary for the American Church

An Obituary for the American Church


You will never find a more hyper-competitive culture than you do in the United States. As a foreigner living in this land, I can attest to that with the utmost respect. Americans love to win; they love the struggle of the journey and love holding up the gold medal of victory. Now don’t hear me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with being competitive, but competition has become warped and twisted within our culture. And at least in the church, we are competitive about the wrong things. Much of the American church finds itself competing with the church down the road. “Are we bigger than them? Do we have more influence than them? Do we have the best/biggest youth group in town? Do people like to get married in our church building? Do people like our church better than theirs?”

The fact of the matter is that there is a battle, we do have an enemy, and we should be competitive…but against our enemy! What we haven’t seen is how crafty he is. This seems to be the alliance he has struck with the American church: “I’ll let a good chunk of your churches grow—just not at the expense of my territory.” And so what happens? Ninety-six percent of church growth is due to transfer growth and not churches striking into the heart of the enemy’s territory. That’s not a win! That’s a staggering loss. Furthermore, for many pastors, we don’t think we’ve won until we’ve won and someone else has lost. Seriously?! For sure, we have an enemy, and we should be competitive, but we should be competing against that enemy, knowing that the final battle has already been won, and not competing against our own team members.

So gifted and skilled is our enemy, so conniving is he, that he has convinced us beating the people on our own team is victory while he stands back and laughs, rarely having to ever engage in conflict, protecting his territory. He is beating us with a slight of hand, with a clever distraction, turning us against ourselves.

Question: In what ways are you competing (both in actuality or simply in your mind) against people who are on your own team?

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Mike leads 3DM, the global home for an organic movement of biblical discipleship and missional church. He and his wife, Sally, have three children.