My generation never received participation trophies. If you wanted a trophy to put on your dresser then the team had to perform well. And yes, we kept score at our minor league games! There were winners and losers—and each week young people would strive to be in the winner category. I grew up being taught that competition was a good thing. And I stand by that—as it causes individuals to strive to do better.

But there is an area that has grown competitive and I believe it is doing great harm. I don’t believe God ever intended preachers or the church to be competitive. We’ve become obsessed with how many “followers” a preacher has on social media, or how many hits they get on their blog page. Many congregations are building new and fancier auditoriums, adding new-fangled programs, and making worship more entertaining simply to increase numbers and be the “bigger” congregation in town. But friend, this isn’t how it should be! Paul wrote, “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?” (1 Corinthians 3:3-4)

Some of this competition has originated from things like lectureships, where preachers vie for keynote speaking slots. What used to be a practice of finding a man who was well qualified to speak in a particular area has grown into a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” practice of preachers selecting their buddies, who in turn put them on their lectureship.

The competition was bred in things like commentary books, articles in brotherhood journals, and website articles. It became almost a “sport” for many get their name in various brotherhood publications. This increased visibility conveyed the notion that these individuals were experts or highly knowledgeable—and thus these men were sought out by others to write or speak for them. The competitive nature began feeding on itself.

Additionally, a great deal of the competition has developed from social media and having an major online prescience. How many Facebook friends does this speaker have? How many likes can we get with this article? How many Twitter followers do they have?

All of this competition has taken the focus away from God and focused it firmly on men. In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul said, “Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” All of this competition has caused division and strife within the body of Christ. Ask yourself a question: how many today would spend hours writing something if their name was not attached to it?

Friends, it’s time we take the focus off fallible men and focus on the only One that has contributed to our salvation—Jesus Christ.

By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.