Pastors' Forum



Have you ever fallen into the trap of comparing yourself with other pastors? If so, what resulted? How did you learn to quit comparing yourself with other ministers and focus on being yourself and doing what God asks of you?


Pastor Jim Graff – Victoria, TX

I’ve heard comparison called the number one sin weighing down pastors, easily besetting them and hindering them from running their race well. I certainly understand why—especially in the USA.

Comparison is such a common mindset in our culture. We’re constantly invited to compare everything—clothes, cars, houses, jobs, etc.—and to believe for better. The same is true in the church world except the things change: size of church, budgets, buildings, technology, even who is involved in the coolest missions project.

We can find help in three mindsets that the apostle Paul modeled and called us too:

1) We need to focus on relationships that applaud effort not just achievement. In 1 Timothy 4:15, Paul encouraged Timothy to be diligent in the development of his gifts so His progress would be evident to all.

2) We need to choose a contentedness mindset over a comparison one. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12 that he learned to be content in any and every situation. That is a skill we too must practice and learn if we want to experience Jesus bringing rest to our souls.

3) We need to live with strong faith determined to fulfill our unique calling. In Philippians 4:13 Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We can too if we’ll pray for an anointing to fulfill our calling instead of comparing our accomplishments to others. After all, to the world, we may be just a small insignificant person, but to the person we minister to, we mean the world!

Pastor John L. Pfeffer, Jr. – Seekonk, MA

It is part of our “human” nature, especially those of us who are male “humans,” to be competitive. Competition can be good when it motivates us to do our best. However, competition is at its root self-focused, so it has to be viewed in light of what Jesus has called each of us as pastors to do. Success in the world is measured by what you accomplish and often in comparison to the accomplishments of others. But success in the Kingdom is measured by obedience to your call. This is one thing to say and another to live.

In our area, there are a number of small, new churches started by young men with very contemporary ideas and much energy. As a result, many are growing quickly. Our church has been here almost 39 years and it is tempting to get intimidated or jealous (they are on my turf). But I have come to realize that just as my body has different organs that are made differently and function differently all for the common health of my body, so God has placed different pastors and different churches each of which has a different purpose. Just as kidneys don’t compete with my spleen, so I am not to compete with other pastors and churches.

When I get tempted, I try to remember that when Peter asked Jesus what He was going to use John to do, Jesus answered, “If I will that he remain until I come what is that to you? You follow Me (John 21:22). If we just keep our eyes on Jesus, we won’t be distracted by others.

Pastor Dan Roth – San Bernardino, CA

There have been many times at a conference or in a conversation that the comparison trap has been sprung on me. Also, with the increase of information on social media, it seems to be more and more prevalent that comparisons are being made on a daily basis. This is especially dangerous for Pastors because it is a natural routine, that after working hard on Sunday and seeing your church, that on Monday you browse the social media sites and see everyone else’s victories. Without the context of their work or even struggle, it looks like others are getting blessed and you aren’t when these comparisons are made. One pastor I heard said, “You end up comparing your behind the scenes with their highlight reel.” Another friend of mine says, “When we compare, someone always gets smaller.”

I have had to discipline myself to not compare. The way I do this is by celebrating others victories, limiting social media, and by comparing myself with myself. If I personally am celebrating others it helps to shut the enemy’s voice that would belittle my efforts. We are all on the same team building God’s Kingdom. Their win is my win and vice versa. Limiting social media helps me to stay focused and not get distracted. Also the timing of when I view social media helps. After I minister I take time to thank God for His work and stay encouraged and not allow other factors to discourage me.

Finally, in comparing myself with myself I see that there is growth and God is moving me forward. I am running in my lane and that is good.

Pastor Ray Eppard – Staunton, VA

In my early years as a pastor, I went through a personal loss that was known to both the church and people in the community, and everyone had an opinion. People in the church knew me and were loving and supportive; however in the “Christian community,” I became a topic of conversation—not in a good way. There were Christian leaders who felt obligated to express resistance to me and communicate their opinion regarding what I did and what I should do. They made this known to me as well as to others in the church. It had always been my hope to have a ministry that no one could criticize (boy, was I dumb). It was troubling to me to have this point of criticism that I could do nothing about. Up to this point, I didn’t realize how much I compared myself to others. During this time, I realized that there is only one who knows everything and that is God. What pleases Him doesn’t change—it’s faith, love, and obedience. I set my goal to please Him more than I ever had. As a result of this experience, I haven’t had significant struggles with comparison. God has a unique plan for each one of us, so any comparing that we do is apples and oranges. None of us has the same assignment.

Pastor Mike Bang – Sioux Falls, SD

Vicki and I have been in full-time ministry now for over 36 years, and we’ve witnessed both the joys of growth and the pain of losing members to other churches. To be frank, it seems like the longer we’re in ministry, the more we see the less we’ve done. And yes, over the years, we have witnessed the great successes other ministries have experienced, only to have their success become a reflection of our ‘failures.’ However, after 36 years of ministry, we know that every ministry faces adversity; and what we do in those times, will test both our faith and our spiritual character.

I believe naturally comparing ourselves to other ministers is something most pastors deal with. We know Paul addressed this in his letter to the church in Corinth. 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NLT) Paul said,Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” And of course, through the years, we’ve had plenty of our fill on ministers that talk only about themselves. So, my perspective on all this is, you have to stay true to what God’s called you to do, and stay focused on—and faithful to—the vision He’s given you in ministry. At the same time, remain compassionate and empathetic towards those ministries that suffer because of moral failure or other mistakes that are made; for it was James who said, James 2:13 (NLT) There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

The older I get, the more compassionate I’ve become regarding other pastors; and because of the sufferings I’ve experienced in ministry, my heart hurts when I hear of other ministries that are struggling and going through hard times. So, let’s maintain a Christ-centered life and pray for one another as the scriptures say;  and as we sow God’s love and mercy, when we need it, it’ll be there.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA

I actually believe everybody struggles with this issue in one area of their life or another. Whether you’re the pastor of a growing church or a single mom attempting to raise several children in a crazy world, the desire to emulate the characteristics and traits of another is simply natural for each of us—especially when we honestly look up to and admire the accomplishments of somebody else. We want to be wanted, like to be liked, and love to be loved. We need to be needed so we are tempted to consider taking paths that might deliver us to that desired destination. However, what we’re flirting with is potentially disastrous if we lose sight of who we are in Christ and allow ourselves to shift to the point that we begin to lose our own identity in the process.

One man I know tried desperately to emulate his entire ministry after the pastor he grew up under from a child. He was always, for example, only one week behind him in his sermon series. He dressed like his mentor, told his mentor’s jokes, and even ate the same foods. He wanted desperately to reproduce the fruit that he had experienced under his mentor’s ministry. The only problem was that it wasn’t working. His mentor continued to experience breakthrough after breakthrough. His mentor’s ministry enjoyed consistent growth, while his own seemed to only grow in weakness and increase with more and more turmoil.

One day, my friend went for a drive in the country. He decided to spend some time separated from everything else and just talk to God about his dilemma. As he drove along a beautiful country two-lane road through rolling hills filled with farms and dairies, he found himself following behind a semi-truck hauling cattle. Several times he considered passing the truck in order to relieve himself of enduring the potent aroma created by the cargo of the slow-moving transit and also afford himself the ability to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Each time, though, he reminded himself that he had set out for a leisurely drive to get into the presence of God for a visit. “No need to hurry,” he told himself.

At one particular place along the drive, the road led them up a very steep incline. The climb was almost too much for the large truck with a full load of cattle. It wasn’t too long until they were crawling up the mountain at a snail’s pace, but by this time he was determined not to pass. He just crept along behind and set himself to refuse to get in a hurry. “Just suck it up,” he thought.

Right about then, it happened. A huge pothole, right on the top of the mountain and directly in the middle of the road. He, of course, didn’t even see it coming. He only heard it, at first. The booming-clunk of the trucks first axels pounding the broken pavement. It was louder than one might expect. The proximity of his car to the rear of the truck probably had something to do with that, as well, but somehow the sounds were filling his car and in stereo, since he had rolled all the windows down to enhance his driving experience AND to prove he could slow down and relax instead of getting anxious and passing the slower moving truck. “I’m out here to hear from God, not to win a race,” he’d told himself just a few miles back!

That first axel dropping in the giant hole was incredibly loud, especially not having any idea what had caused the vehicle to make such a noise in the first place. But it was nothing compared to what came next. The cattle on board the truck began to bellow at a level his ears had never experienced before. It was as if the cattle were inside his own vehicle. But it didn’t stop there. There were three more axels to drop into that unforeseen pothole! As the truck crept up the hill each axel created the same thunderous BANG and each seemed to become louder and louder as their proximity to his car grew closer and closer. Somewhere in the midst of all the banging and clanging of the truck and the incredibly loud bellowing of the bovine, something even worse transpired. With each drop of the trucks axels, the byproduct of the truck’s cargo had begun shifting to the rear of the truck. When that last axel hit the hole, it was too late! Cow feces found its escape from the rear of the truck. Unfortunately, his car at this point had traveled so close to the truck that the said feces didn’t simply fall to the road, but landed on the hood of his car. It slid quickly and smoothly up and onto his windshield and, without thinking, he instinctively hit the power button for his wiper blades, which instantly covered his entire front windshield like icing on a birthday cake!

“Well, what’s next?!” He was thinking when his car fell into the pit in the middle of the road. It jarred his car in a tremendous fashion. He was certain the transmission had fallen out onto the pavement. Unable to see more than a few feet in front of him through the feces-covered windshield, he immediately pulled to the side of the road and hammered the brakes.

“Why God! Why this? I’m out here to hear from you! I need your wisdom and I’m seeking your voice and THIS is what I get? WHY?”

That’s when he heard it—God’s voice. He heard his Lord softly say, “You’re following too close!” (Following too close can get pretty messy!)

Desiring to be like someone we look up to isn’t always a bad thing. It can be a real motivator to push us on to greater things. However, if we begin to shift from emulating and move closer to duplicating, we do ourselves no favors. If any two of us are identical, one of us is no longer needed.

The truth is, all of us possess three images. We have a projected image (how we want others to see us), a perceived image (how we think others see us), and our true image (who we truly are). Only one of those images has the ability to carry the anointing. Only our true image attracts the Spirit of God. God saved YOU. God called YOU. God anoints YOU and ONLY YOU.

Attempting to be somebody else has and will always sabotage our potential results. I’ve suffered the effects of believing somebody else was better than me, stronger than me, more effective than me. But every time I’ve pretended to be more like somebody else, I’ve produced lower results than I could have had I just been ME.

God knows what he’s doing. He didn’t make any mistakes while making any of us. He desires to use US for the exact purpose He created and called US, which is why it’s so important that when the opportunity presents itself that it is US who shows up.

Pastor Steve Smothermon – Albuquerque, NM

I think everyone has been guilty of comparing themselves to others. We either compare our best moments to other’s worst moments, or we compare our worst moments to other’s best. Either way, it is not healthy or necessary; it makes us prideful or discouraged.

We must guard our hearts and minds against the sin of comparison. I used to compare the church I pastored years ago to one that I came from. I always came up short, always felt discouraged, and started thinking that there was something wrong with me. Felt left out. Then I decided to learn to be thankful for what I had and started looking for ways to make what I had better. I finally realized that God has a plan for all of us and that He really did have a plan for my life.

If you want to be unhappy, compare yourself to others. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says you are unwise if you compare yourself to others. In our world of Christian celebrities, we think that’s the norm or that should be what we strive for—to be popular. What we should all strive for is to be what God made us to be, build the best church in our communities, and to be the best version of us that we could possibly be. God loves all of us and He has a great plan for all of our lives. I had to learn to rejoice with those who rejoice and be thankful for what I have and stop comparing myself to others.

Pastor Barry Fredericks – Newtown, CT

Pastor Sheila and I pioneered this church, with very little experience, stumbling our way along. We were faithful and the Lord, by His grace, established the work.

As time went on, we heard of other pastors doing different things, some of those things we desired to do and could not. Larger churches had God-given ideas, resources and manpower that were intimidating. Coveting what these churches had and were doing could only lead to discouragement.

Pastor Sheila and I prayed and had long talks about the ministry the Lord gave us and He helped us to be free. Here is how: The Lord Jesus saved us, baptized us with the Holy Spirit, called us to Rhema and directed us by the Holy Spirit to start a church in Newtown, CT. We teach the Word of faith and will not compromise. We understand that our scriptural position will not be accepted by everyone, and that is fine. Though the finances were extremely tight, we were able to be full-time in the ministry.

We love the Lord Jesus and consider pastoring an honor and a joy. Our three sons love Jesus, and they are all part of this church. Our oldest son will be the senior pastor in two years.

Jeremiah 1:5, “the Lord knew me before I was born and called me.” For lack of a better term, I am a ‘home body.’ I love that my ministry is the towns and cities in this area. Our goal is to continue to impact this local area in as many ways as we can. We are an active local church. We teach the uncompromised Word of God. We endeavor to have powerful, Holy Spirit anointed services. We have a healing school, Bible Studies, and prayer meetings. We have the opportunity to video classes for overseas Rhema schools. We have access to the local public access TV station. Our children’s church and youth ministry are well known. Our youths go on mission trips annually and we have adult mission trips. Over the years the Lord has allowed us to establish relationships with outstanding ministers of the gospel who come and minister to the congregation. We are able to impact the communities with children’s outreaches. We are involved in community outreaches and the congregation is extremely generous.

Time has gone quickly and we are ‘comfortable in our skin.’ By the grace of God, in over 33 years of pastoring in this area, we have been able to impact the lives of thousands of people. There is no need, nor time, for jealousy.

Pastor Mark Lillo – Monticello, MN

Comparison for me hasn’t been so much with other pastors but more so with growth and differences of churches. It seems that the questions that are often asked are, “How many are at your church, how old, and what’s the square footage of the building?”

The teaching on the talents has been very helpful for me. When one was given five talents and another two, it was according to their ability. This ability I think depends not on what you can lead personally but more on where you are sent. Someone in a large metropolitan area is going to have more exposure and resources than the one who is in a small community. So, their ability is going to be directly affected. This frees me up to be faithful with what the Lord has given me and where He has established me. My accountability is unto the Lord and not to another man for it is He that I serve.

Pastor Dave Beebe – Albion, MI

I have found in over 40 years of full-time ministry, other people will do all that “comparison” for you…without asking.

Pastor Jann Butler – Tacoma, WA

When comparing yourself with others, several things begin to take place in a believer’s thinking. According to 2 Cor. 10:12-18, the first thing that happens is you begin to measure your call in light of another’s calling and not your own. Not realizing the process that took place in me was very subtle. It is something that happens to you without you seeing the results of it in you. It brings a spirit of self-rejection. In verse 12, the apostle Paul clearly defines the process in how it works in thoughts who approve of the comparing among themselves. When I did this, I lost sight of my success when I compared it to another’s, and it caused my hope and confident expectation of faith in the measure I was called to—it was a disappointment. I was not even sure I was going to succeed until I could measure up to their standard. But I soon realized it is not man I measure up to, but what the Lord has called me to do and measure myself to Him. That way I stay in my proper calling He has given me and not in another’s, and I finish my course.

Pastor Herbert Bailey – Columbia, SC

I must honestly say that in the past this has not been an issue for me. However, social media (i.e. Instagram and Facebook) have changed the game. I now find myself feeling less effective because I see the “postings” of other pastors and churches with larger crowds, larger speaking platforms, etc. I know that the Scriptures teach about “comparing ourselves among ourselves” not being wise. So, to deal with these issues of comparison prompted by social media, I either delete them from my timeline or don’t get on social media. It is nothing that the posters are doing wrong; it is my way of dealing with those fleshy comparison feelings. At the end of the day, we must all be mature enough to “rejoice with those who rejoice” without comparison.