Pastor, Stop Comparing and Competing

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Written by: Dan Steel 

Dan Steel serves as the senior pastor of Magdalen Road Church in Oxford, England. Before returning to his hometown of Oxford, he helped plant Grace Church Stirchley in Birmingham, England. He and his wife, Zoe, have four children. You can connect with him here.

This following content was originally published on Acts 29’s website, linked HERE.


In John 20, we read about Jesus’s resurrection. Right after John gives this account, he leads into John 21 with encouragement and hope. It’s a chapter full of kindness, and we see the beauty of Jesus as he gently tends to his disciples. He even has a gracious interaction with Peter, forgiving him for his denial and commissioning him to service.

There’s much to glean from John 21. Jesus demonstrates his bodily resurrection with a lakeside barbecue—this is how he feeds and forgives his followers, before sending them to tend his sheep (John 21:16). That’s a great lesson for church planters and pastors to remember. We must first receive from Christ before we go and minister for Christ.

It’s important to note the description Jesus gives when sending his disciples on mission. He doesn’t direct them to go feed their sheep—he tells them, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). They weren’t Peter’s sheep, or John’s. They aren’t yours or mine either; they belong to Jesus.

This is a helpful reminder for church planters and pastors. The church you have the privilege of serving? It’s not yours. It’s Jesus’s church. Full of his sheep. Remember that as you love and serve them. What a privilege to be involved in tending and caring for Jesus’s beloved.

Comparison Steals Our Joy

After Jesus commissions Peter, you’d think he would offer a gracious response and get going on his way. But we read otherwise in John 21:20–21:

“Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man?’”Remember, your calling is to tend and feed Jesus’s sheep, not compare your assignment to that of someone else.CLICK TO TWEET

Peter is playing the comparison game, and Jesus’s response to him is direct when he says, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22). This makes it clear that the calling for each pastor is the same, while different. We’re the same in that we’re to be nourished by Jesus before serving his sheep. But we’re different in that each of our callings is unique. Peter receives his commission, and yet, is still looking around wondering about the potential ministry of others.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. This often leads to competition, which can certainly prove unhealthy in ministry. We may admire the competency of others, and we bury our inadequacies in jealousy. Or maybe we see how well another church appears to be doing, and wonder, how did they make that happen? These thoughts are unproductive and can lead to harm.

Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s so easy for us to act as Peter did, especially in inexperience. We may recognize and receive our commission from Jesus, but we can’t help looking around to see what everyone else is doing, too.

Think about this in your own life and ministry. It’s easy to judge what everyone else is doing and assume it’s better—this may be especially true for new church planters. Imagine yourself as Peter. Who are the “Johns” of your world? Those you look to and ask, what will they get in comparison to what I’ve received? When unchecked, these questions breed discontentment.

Follow Jesus

No matter the ministry of others, pastor, it’s OK to do you. In fact, it’s good for you to follow your own path and giftings because only you can do the work God has set aside for you. Jesus called you to be the person you are in the context you’re in. Keep going! You don’t have to look around at others asking what Jesus has planned for them. That’s not up to you—it’s between them and God. Remember, your calling is to tend and feed Jesus’s sheep, not compare your assignment to that of someone else.The church you have the privilege of serving? It’s not yours. It’s Jesus’s church.CLICK TO TWEET

Jesus called Peter to obedience and devotion when he said, “You follow me!” He has called us to this, too. Throughout John 21, Jesus reminds us to keep our eyes off others and fixed on him. We’re encouraged to stop comparing and competing, to put away discontentment, and follow him. May we do so with fervor and devotion.