Not long ago, I called a woman in our church because I hadn’t seen her in a while and wanted to see how she was doing. She said her sister had gotten saved a few months back and asked her if she’d go to the local Assembly of God church, The Summit, with her. So she’d been going there, along with her husband, who never came to our church much, and he really liked the Summit and was going every Sunday. And her kids loved it there as well.
Then she said, “Every Sunday I just feel so guilty for not coming to our church.”
“Are you kidding?” I said. “I am so glad that you are attending there. And especially that your husband and your children like it. That’s wonderful. Do not feel guilty for one second. All the churches in our city are on the same team. There’s really only one church—and that’s Jesus’ church. I only want you to be where Jesus wants you and where you will flourish. So, don’t feel guilty at all. And know that any time you’d want to visit here you would be completely welcome.”
She was so relieved. I felt bad that she’d struggled with guilt for not coming here. And I was glad I could genuinely rejoice that she was going somewhere else. Because years ago, I would not have rejoiced. In my arrogance, in the early years of our church I would have thought we were the “best” church in town. Oh, we weren’t the only church in town, but we were just a little bit better than everyone else. We were more like the New Testament church than all those “traditional” churches. Our worship was more passionate. Our doctrine was more accurate. Why would anyone want to go somewhere else? The Lord’s patience and forbearance with stupid and arrogant believers (and pastors) is incredible. I know, because I’m living proof.
Back then, if I heard a new church was starting in town I’d think, “What do we need another church for? We’re here. People should come here. We don’t need another church.” I viewed other churches as competitors. If people went to those churches, there’d be less people to come to our church. I’m so glad God rescued me from that ignorant, conceited mindset.
Over the years, Jesus somehow got it through my thick skull that—amazingly, as it says in the Bible—there is ONE church. One body, one Spirit, one faith. As it says in Ephesians:
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4–6
Now I regularly tell people that all the churches that preach the gospel in our city are on the same team. There’s no competition. When another church prospers, I rejoice in God’s grace to them. Our church isn’t the best church in town. Other churches will reach people that we would never reach. I can learn from other pastors and other churches. There are guys leading other churches who are far more astute in the Word than I am. There are more exciting and dynamic worship teams than we have. There are churches who are reaching more people and doing more in missions work than we are. I want to rejoice when God blesses other churches.
And as for new churches being planted or started here, the more the merrier. We have thousands of lost people in our area. We could use dozens more churches. There’s enough unsaved people to fill them all. And I pray the Lord will do that.
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.