One of my pastoral joys was teaching people to share Jesus and minister His love to others. We did home visits, door-to-door ministry, praying with people and sharing Jesus. In the beginning, those I took with me were shy about leading out in witness. But in a matter of weeks, they would gain confidence and begin to share their testimony. Within a few months, I often witnessed a transformation, as the power of the Holy Spirit was kindled within them, and their desire to share Jesus blossomed. On occasion, the team of two that I was training became competitive with each other, jostling for the opportunity to take the lead in sharing Christ and praying with an individual. That was always fun to watch! To observe two grown men spar over who would get to share Jesus was more fun than gridiron combat, I can promise you!
Now, I have some questions. Have you experienced that kind of competition? Have you ever competed with another believer for a chance to share the Gospel or minister to a hurting person? Have you competed over who got to share Jesus in the county jail, or the nursing home or on the doorstep of a neighbor? Are you competing with other believers over who will love the poor in your town, serve the harassed in your city and minister to the broken and hopeless among you? Have you thrown an elbow or two, to get the “inside position” on the opportunity to love the lonely?
As you consider those questions, let me share a concern. I rarely see believers competing to share Jesus with the lost and minister to the hurting, but I too often hear believers discuss competing with another church for the already saved. Have you ever complained about a new church start, fearing they would take people from your church? Have you envied the numerical growth of another Sunday School class or church, believing that their growth negated your opportunity to serve Jesus and share His Gospel with the lost? Have you believed the untruth that God’s blessing on one church comes at the expense of other churches?
If you are tempted to complain or criticize other believers in their efforts to reach people, consider the 80/20 rule, which is that 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work, or that 20 percent of the people give 80 percent of the money. The old 80/20 rule has been around for a long time and probably has considerable validity.
But there is another 80/20 rule that exists in Oklahoma that we all need to remember. I suggest to you that the new 80/20 rule should change how we think about competition in the church world. What is the new 80/20 rule, as I have observed it? It is this: on a typical Sunday in Oklahoma, about 20 percent of the people attend church, meaning 80 do not attend on a typical Sunday. This percentage varies from town-to-town and county-to-county, but statewide, about 20 percent are in church on Sunday. This 20 percent includes the combined attendance of all denominations in Oklahoma, including Roman Catholic.
To be clear, this does not mean that only 20 percent of Oklahomans attend church services. It may be that double that number attend church with some frequency, but they are not all there on the same Sunday. The U. S. Census Bureau estimated Oklahoma’s population at 3,687,050 at the end of 2009. Taking this figure, it means that approximately 2,949,640 Oklahoma residents are not in anybody’s church on Sunday. If we double the average weekly attendance, it would mean that 2,212,230 rarely, if ever, attend church.
If we are going to compete with our brothers, I suggest that you compete to win the lost and love the brokenhearted. There are plenty of them for us all, more than 2 million. The truth is, it is wrong both factually and strategically to view other churches as the competition. Factually, it is wrong because the devil has most of the people and your “competition” is with him. Strategically it is wrong, because the more churches we have (thus the more pastors and Sunday School teachers who are “working the fields”) the greater number of people we will reach. And isn’t that what we all want, regardless of where they worship Jesus on Sunday morning?
It is a joy to see believers so love Jesus that they would wrestle for the opportunity to share Him with another. God might just bless a competition like that.
Randall Adams is leader of the Church Outreach Team of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.