The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.–2 John 1:13
A mile or so from my mother’s house lies the intersection of Noland Road and 39th Street in Independence, Missouri. A couple of blocks away from I-70, this intersection used to be a truly major retail destination with various businesses filling all four corners. Now the convenience store on the southwest corner is closed. The Office Max on the northwest corner has relocated. Around the area, we see various other evidence of mercantile slippage. However, the two east corners are cooking with CVS on the northeast and Walgreen on the southeast. It’s a place of dueling drugstores. Perhaps you’ll find the same arrangement where you live with these two giants glowering at each other across an intersection.
Wouldn’t you think that a huge retail chain would look for an opening in the market rather than building across the street from their rival. This isn’t like McDonalds and Burger King building next door. There’s a difference, however slight, between a Big Mac and a Whopper, but what’s the difference between a prescription at CVS and the same one at Walgreen’s? Do they carry different beauty products? Different foods? Different bunion remedies? Not really. Change a bit of signage and a CVS can pass for a Walgreen, and vice versa.
I’m sure the brain trust at these two companies has thought this thing through. They know that being at Noland and 39th Street is important, even if the competition is right across the street. Maybe it’s even because the competition is there. They’ll try to lure each other’s customers with cut-price milk and batteries and hairspray. They’ll aim to get 51% of the market and then work from there.
How different is that from our churches? Do we get along? Do we compete? I’ve received mailings from a former staff member of my church promoting his new church start. Where else would this guy have gotten my address but from his former employment? Is it right to troll for members–even disaffected members–in the way that CVS trolls for Walgreen’s customers?
Does your church view other churches as “the competition” or as “the chosen sister.” For all the talk of cooperation and love, we see too much evidence of one-upsmanship and competition. As we reach the end of John’s second letter, it’s worthwhile to look at ourselves as members and our churches as bodies, evaluating soberly what we really are and the message we promote.