Monday Morning Pastor: Craig Groeschel

What do you get when you have 27 campuses, 8 different states, and a Bible app that’s been downloaded 100 million times? If that’s not a megachurch, I don’t know what is. So this week’s Monday Morning Pastor features Craig Groeschel, head Pastor of Life.Church. This church is known for having a large online presence with many campus sites. The main campus is based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The church is estimated to have a 42,000 plus weekly membership. It’s said to be the largest multi-site church in the US.  The title of this Sunday’s sermon was “Overcoming the Curse of Comparing”.

Opening

So the sermon opens with a video of woman in black and white. The woman’s voice is in the background talking about not being defined by others. Pastor Groeschel begins discussing how people often compare themselves today. He shares a story about messing with his younger sister growing up. He pretended to receive more money than her on their shared birthday. She would cry every time until one birthday she received more money, and he cried.

It’s at this point we reach our first buzz line. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I define it in my first Monday Morning Pastor post here. He states, “The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else.” He tosses out another line, “Where comparison begins, contentment ends.” Groeschel quotes a couple of megachurch pastors this sermon. The first person he quotes is our previous Monday Morning Pastor Steven Furtick, who expresses “One compares their behind the scenes with others highlights”.

2 Corinthians 10:12

Pastor Groeschel cites 2 Corinthians 10:12 which states, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” He explains from this that comparing makes you feel inferior or superior, and neither honors God. What I find different compared to our previous sermon review is the lack of frequent applause or playing of music during his sermon. That’s a good thing.

He next cites Andy Stanley who expresses, “Everybody wants that with er, greater” Craig Groeschel goes a step further and states, “I want est, greatest”. He talks about everyone wants that, and people are holier than thou if they don’t admit that. I would question whether everyone really wants to have better than others or be the best. I’ve known people who are content with their status and letting others have the spotlight.

Peter and John

Pastor Groeschel suggests Peter and John didn’t like each other from what he learned in seminary school. He concludes John was annoying for referring to himself in the third person, because people who do that are annoying. I would assume he doesn’t find Jesus annoying of course. Mr. Groeschel believes the person John is referring to as “the one Jesus loves” is John himself. I would agree that John 21:24 seems to suggest that to be the case. Citing John 20:2-5, he suggests it shows that John was showing how much better he was than Peter in noting he outran him. He also cites the fishing story in John 21 where the one who Jesus loves recognizes Jesus first.

Groeschel then uses John 21:20-22 to prove that people shouldn’t focus on other people but focus on what their assignment is. Peter asks what about the other disciple after being told to follow Jesus. Jesus tells Peter it has nothing to do with him, and that he just needs to follow Him (Jesus). Groeschel states one can’t faithfully follow Jesus if one compares themselves to someone else. He explains that people do it to find external satisfaction to satisfy themselves internally. He says there’s nothing on the outside that can satisfy one besides the God who created them.

Very important question

Groeschel tells his audience that one has to answer a very important question right. If they don’t answer it right, they will be miserable for the rest of their life. “Who or what is going to define my worth?” He says people living up to other’s expectations won’t define it. He uses Hebrews 12:1-2b to conclude a person should run the race they’re called to and fix their eyes on Jesus. Using 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, Groeschel states one should run for the eternal prize by running one’s own divine purpose. He encourages people celebrate others successes which they can learn from.

Groeschel’s final thoughts

Pastor Groeschel closes on a self-reflective note. Every year He and his wife find one word for the year to focus on. He states God revealed to him that his word was “focus”.  He talked about how he doesn’t do what his peers do with TV ministry, he doesn’t go around preaching at different churches throughout the year, and he doesn’t have his church do conferences. He sees his peers doing it and feels tempted looking at their successes. But the pastor tells his audience that his lane is building churches, stating life change happens best when people are plugged into local churches. He also sees his lane is building leaders to change the world. Groeschel states his final lane is building up pens commending him for years of serving with integrity with no church scandals.

His final words encourage the audience to run their race and trust God will be faithful. He states one can’t win their race focusing on others. He says one has to focus on Jesus, run with purpose, and He’ll define their work. By doing this, Groeschel concludes one will receive a heavenly crown and not an earthly crown.

My final thoughts

I would say the message was admirable. One should focus on living their faith and doing their best to glorify God. It’s also a team sport. We’re all wearing the same jerseys and doing our best to honor God. I thought it was great the message didn’t close with a conclusion that doing all these things will get you the things you want. He just closed by expressing God will make sure you’re doing okay with your race, and you’ll get to the prize of eternity with God.

I would question the assertion that John and Peter didn’t like each other. There’s no verse that states that to be case. The details of John outrunning Peter could just be an accurate retelling of the story. In which case, the foundation of the sermon would seem to fall apart, since it’s based on believing that John and Peter were competitive against each other. But the main point is still valid.  Unfortunately I found it hard not to think the ending sinks everything into quicksand with the false teaching of receiving salvation through a sinner’s prayer.

We all grow up learning things a certain way, but it’s important we come to our own conclusion on those things. I know I have. Have you?

Peace to all those who are in Christ.

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15 thoughts on “Monday Morning Pastor: Craig Groeschel

    • Hi George. Thank you for your comment. Indeed, we all certainly can read for ourselves. I hope we can all do our best to take the time to do so.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

    • Hey, George. While it is true that some people can read the bible on their own, not everyone can, and certainly many people do not like to. Also, some have studied for years on historical background, context, and translation management to be able to read the Bible to the best of their ability, and it is their desire to share this knowledge.

      My mother, for instance, really hates to read. She is a devout Christian, but has simply never been a reader, and so prefers sermons to help guide her through it. Scripture is not clear or concise. Many people enjoy having “experts” or at least someone they trust help guide them through it. There are many reasons why someone reading scripture for another can be a fruitful endeavor.

      • I was thinking reading more in the sense of actually being able to read the words, that everyone can do that. Except someone who doesn’t know how to read. But I agree, certainly not everyone is always able to fully understand what they read, even the best of readers who study all of those things we study for greater understanding. Hopefully through individual and shared study, we can all come to best understanding that God wants us to have.

        Peace in Christ. 🙂

  1. I have tended to believe that John outran Peter because he was younger and had more natural energy. However, where John outran Peter, Peter out dared John because he was the first to step into the empty tomb encouraging John to follow. Yet is some simple way, John was the first to appropriate what had happened because “he believed”. As for them not liking each other. Why were they together? Because John was comforting Peter after the pain of failure,. That is real fellowship!

    • Hi Food for the Soul. Thank you for your comment. Hmm, that could be possible. I never thought about that. And yeah, I don’t think they would be together if they didn’t like each other. I agree that they were probably emotional support for one another. I think the pastor was just trying to make something provocative out of the story that simply isn’t there.

      Peace in Christ. 🙂

  2. Hey Fact,

    Another interesting sermon. My biggest problem is that the message addresses a symptom and not the root. The reason that people constantly compare themselves, particularly Christians, is because our understanding of what sin is requires it to be so. If the root of sin is pride, and we seek not to be prideful, we must constantly compare ourselves to others in order to know whether we are being prideful or not. If the root of sin is idolatry, we must compare our own worship practices to others to make sure we are not idolators.

    While I agree with you that this is an excellent message, I feel that it falls far short of being able to help people actually stop comparing themselves with one another. It basically says, comparing yourself to others is bad for you, stop it. While this is true, it doesn’t help people understand why they naturally want to compare themselves to others. The fact is that comparing yourself to others is an essential part of identity formation. You would not be you without understanding that you are not everyone else.

    I’m not sure I made my point well here, but I think you get it.

    Grace and Peace to you.

    • Hi Turtle. Thanks for your comment. Certainly having other examples of people of faith to observe can be helpful to us. In that sense, perhaps comparison can be a positive thing. The message itself is one I wouldn’t have given nor would I particularly see myself watching more of his sermons, as I think it’s better to opt for specific teachings already instructed of us in scripture that could more effectively make the point. But I could see the larger positive intention of the message.

      Peace to you in Christ. 🙂

  3. The word “lane” jumped out at me. I have had nearly 20 years of experience in one way or another with the mega-church mindset, through churches we have visited, participated with or worked with, or read about. Some of them talk about the need for us to “stay in your own lane,” which means to mind your own business. I wonder if maybe this played in to his sermon about not comparing ourselves to others, and if maybe there was a deeper message there. I don’t know because I didn’t hear the sermon, but a common thread among these churches is that we need to keep our beliefs to ourselves, not confront anyone with sin or share with them the full gospel message, because it might offend people.

    A very common theme, too, is that we have to get to know people for maybe a couple of years, and just hang out with them and be their buddy before we have the right to talk with them about their salvation. And, we just need to “love on” people by smiling, giving hugs, etc., but not saying anything that might make them feel uncomfortable. The gospel, too, is often presented as just doing good deeds so people will feel good, but not many of them are talking about what Jesus and his NT apostles talked about regarding repentance, obedience, submission, etc.

    A lot of the prayers are not even sinner’s prayers anymore, but just a “thank you” to Jesus for taking their place so they can escape hell and go to heaven when they die. There is not even an admission of sin at all. It is more just accepting that Jesus took their place so they will never be punished for sin. No repentance, no change of heart or life required at all. This gives free license to continue in sin without guilt or remorse.

    • Hi Sue. Yes, these churches do intend to avoid ruffling feathers on theological issues that could be offensive to some. Opting instead for universally agreed upon messages that make everyone feel welcome. I agree with you that it’s important to engage directly on salvation and other matters of importance. Perhaps that’s the greatest form of love to share with someone the need for them to the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. And I do find the alter call prayer quite watering down of what scripture teaches is necessary for salvation and the importance of striving to live a lifestyle of faith which involves giving up sinful practices. But I hope in the future there can be a shift more to authentic faith according to what the Word teaches.

      Peace in Christ. 🙂

  4. Ok, so I listened to the sermon. It bothered me that he said that Bible was funny. I felt he mocked scripture and the disciples, especially John. I felt more like he was entertaining, and I did not sense he was being led and empowered by the Spirit. It seemed rather fleshly, though I thought he made some good points about not comparing ourselves to others. Even after listening to it, though, I felt there might be an underlying message, and he did say several times that we need to stay in our own lane. He even said that we should not even be concerned about other people in their lanes, i.e. about what they are doing, but we should just celebrate them and encourage them in their lane.

    As far as the theme of comparing ourselves to others, I get that, but I also know that this “stay in your lane” and don’t worry about what other people are doing is a common thread among these mega-churches or those striving to be like them. For, if we do talk with someone about their lives and how they are living them, then we have stepped out of our lane and into theirs, and it might appear we are acting superior and it might make them feel inferior, and they don’t want that. Yet, he did talk about making Jesus Lord, and following him, and he talked about holiness and righteousness, but the invitation to trust in Christ did not include repentance.

    • Hey Sue. Yes, I wasn’t fond of the belittling of John. I felt he was just attempting to be provocative, maybe to come off as “real” or “cool” to the audience. I personally think there’s enough interesting things in scripture without trying to over-dramatize it or over-speculate beyond what the text states. Hmm, interesting point you make about the stay in your lane comment. I certainly hope in reiterating “stay in your lane” that he wasn’t insinuating one shouldn’t call out certain Christians when needed. That would be unfortunate, because it is important for us to hold one another accountable. But yes, the ending alter call prayer was lacking in containing all the necessary components stated in scripture in one having salvation. I can only pray we’ll all take the time to learn the issue of salvation ourselves.

      Peace in Christ. 🙂

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