I have always loved this concept from Wolfgang Simson’s Houses that Change the World (p. 294).
I envision a day when churches around the world are so aligned with the mission of Jesus that there is no sense of competition at all.
Picture two ants standing in front of an elephant. They are arguing over which of them will eat the elephant. The average evangelical church today has around 100 members. Given certain sociological factors, a local church has, typically, an evangelistic potential of a factor 10, i.e. it can effectively touch the lives of about ten times as many people as it has active members. A church of 100, then, can ‘reach’ around 1000 people in their basic cultural, ethnic and social layer with the gospel. That means that in a city of 15,000 inhabitants, we realistically need about 15 churches – one for each 1000 inhabitants. That does not mean that each church will have to grow to 1000 members; it means that each church has a task – their own piece of the elephant – of reaching the lives of 1000 people.
Many churches are likely to speak in terms of competition if a second active church is founded in a town with 15,000 inhabitants. Not only are both these churches necessary, but another 13 are probably needed as well. There is, in other words, no need to fight over which ant will eat the elephant. The only solution is to call for more ants. If the magnitude of the goal is realistically clear to all churches in an area, competition is reduced, and erstwhile competitors can become colleagues and then, hopefully, friends.