Competitive behavior within a church can be extremely obvious. Members of a church could be observed jockeying for positions of power within the group, trying to push an agenda that they created to boost their self-esteem or simply wanting to be right all the time to soothe their ego.
Here I’m pointing out a more subtle kind of unhealthy competitive behavior among church leaders. It’s the competitive behavior of maturity contests.
Some people won’t take the more blatant approaches to acquire more influence within a group. Instead, their strategy (it may be subconscious) involves thinking that the more mature they can act toward people, the more respect they gain within a group.
How is nothing ever wrong?
The problem with this approach is that they can actually be right. This is what happens much of the time. The more mature a person presents themselves to be, the more respect they gain.
Why is this a problem then? Because it’s just an act. It isn’t authentic. They keep their struggles below the surface and pose like nothing is ever wrong with them. It seems like nothing ever bothers them.
It’s unrelatable and frankly can be quite annoying.
This strategy to gain respect tends to work in situations where church life stays at the surface level. But if a group is really attempting to be built together in oneness as brothers and sisters in Christ, this approach will not last and it negatively affects a church.
This is because some people have the discernment and feel their lack of authenticity. For the others, they eventually come to realize what’s going on (usually through conflict). When they do, now everyone feels their lack of authenticity. People feel like they’ve been duped.
Falls from grace
We see examples of this all the time when influential Christians have a “fall from grace” as they call it. It’s found out that a person that seemed really mature (usually because they can speak eloquently) wasn’t so mature after all.
But it doesn’t have to be something major as it usually is when we hear about those types of situations. It can be as simple as finding out someone struggles with something after years of it being left uncovered because they were trying to win the maturity contest.
The main sign
One of the main signs that someone is into maturity contests is how they react to circumstances. They will come across tough circumstances and they’ll attempt to act like they’re completely unaffected.
I’ve seen people go through major life-altering events and try to act like they’re not really affected by them. Most people can’t relate to that.
They might try to avoid talking about the situation altogether, or they might use a bunch of Christianese in conversation. They also will rarely share their feelings, usually because they’re not very in touch with them. They come across like they’re immune to being upset.
Maturity has just as much to do with authenticity than it does with your ability to stay strong in the midst of life’s hard circumstances.
Knowingly or unknowingly, ultimately this tactic is another that attempts to elevate oneself inside of a community.
True maturity doesn’t involve hiding. It’s being honest and truthful. True respect is gained not by becoming a “better Christian” than those around you. It’s gained by being authentic in your pursuit of Christ together.
Getting involved in these maturity contests doesn’t bring people together. It just creates a performance-based environment with an underlying spirit of competitiveness that moves people apart.