Contemplative vs. Competitive Ministry

Having recently read Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of competitive ministry vs. contemplative ministry.

Like Peterson, I am a competitive person by nature living in the midst of competitive systems.  For eight years I was involved in competitive speech and debate.  After college I was married, started graduate school on a nice scholarship, soon began serving a church and have marked much of “success” in life and ministry in competitive ways.

  • Is giving increasing?
  • How about membership?
  • Worship attendance?
  • How is our church doing (in statistically measurable ways) in relationship to how we were a couple of years ago?
  • How about in relationship to the church down the road?

While I appreciate the contemplative/competitive conversation, after finishing Peterson’s book I found myself wondering if might be a false dichotomy.  Might there be a middle way, a way to do life and ministry that is both competitive and contemplative?

Over coffee recently I asked Ben what he thought about the potential for a competitive/contemplative middle ground.  He responded with a question of his own, “what do you think that other option would look like?”

My answer today is the same as it was then.

I don’t know.

But I continue to think about it and wonder what a competitive/contemplative option might be.

What do you think?  Do you think these two ways of living and being in ministry can co-exist or are they by nature mutually exclusive?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Contemplative vs. Competitive Ministry

  1. Nancy

    I must admit I haven’t thought about ministry in terms of competition, and I’m not sure how Peterson or you are defining competitive vs. contemplative ministry. However, in looking at your list of “successful” ministry markers that you consider to be competitive, except for the last one, they seem to be competitive only in the terms we used to use in youth track–you are competing with yourself. The goal is to set a new PR (personal record). I don’t think that’s a bad way to compete.

    • Jeff Clinger

      Though he never says it in so many words, Peterson indicts the entire model of Pastor as CEO who is primarily concerned about numbers, returns, etc. He lays out a vision for pastor that is primarily focused in spiritual formation: knowing God and speaking to and living in a community of faith so that they may know God’s saving love. To be focused on reading and engaging scripture and living in Christian community is the emphasis for Peterson much more so than I see it being the emphasis in our systems of numbers/growth/achievement.

      I’m not sure what he would say about the idea of setting PR’s, even that falls into this mindset that our work is mostly driven by and gauged by numbers, an idea that I think he might challenge.

      It is a good read for sure, one that I enjoyed and recommend.

  2. Pingback: Simple Math Church Growth | Changing To Bring Change

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