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Giving Birth to Naphtali

Sometimes we need to stop and ask ourselves... am I doing this because God is calling me to it, or am I giving birth to Naphtali?


The danger of the comparison trap

This morning I was reading the story of the birth of Naphtali in Genesis 30. As you probably recall, Naphtali is one of the sons of Jacob, born from Bilhah, the servant of Rachel. The story of Rachel and Leah is fraught with bitter jealousy and constant competition with one another. What struck me this morning was the naming of Naphtali, found in verse 8:

Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.

This verse has stuck with me all day... a name is a big deal. A name carries meaning and memory and in some ways defines the trajectory of someone's life. I wonder what it was like to be Naphtali. What was it like to be the one that put Rachel over the top (temporarily) on the son scoreboard? What must it have been like when the next son was born... or when Rachel gave birth to her own biological son? I wonder if Naphtali felt like a true son... or a pawn in a bigger game.

We live in a time where church leaders feel significant pressure to see their church grow. While I believe that church growth can be incredibly healthy, there is also a significant downside to this pressure. I have seen where this pressure can cause church leaders to give birth to their own Naphtali... hiring a staff member, launching a program, or building a facility in order to be like another church.

The temptation to look over your shoulder at another church and covet is real. The danger of this temptation is that we become so focused on having the numbers, programs, or staff of other churches that we lose sight of what we have been called to: leading our congregation to be more like Jesus on a daily basis.

One of my college professors, knowing that the comparison trap is real for ministry leaders, encouraged us to lean on Psalm 139:23-24 before launching into any new program or before any significant change within our ministries:

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Before launching into a new program, hiring a new position, or starting a major initiative, take a moment to breathe and ask yourself and our God, "is this what we are truly called to do... or are we giving birth to Naphtali?"

I'd love to be a safe space to wrestle through these decisions with. You can click here to schedule a time for us to talk.



Matt Steen

Matt Steen

Matt has served the local church for over two decades as a youth pastor, church planter, and executive pastor. Originally from Baltimore, Matt currently lives in Orlando, with his wife Theresa, and has a B.S. in Youth Ministry from Nyack College and an M.Div. and MBA from Baylor University. Certified as an Urban Church Planter Coach by Redeemer City to City and as a StratOp facilitator by the Paterson Center, Matt has made a career of helping churches thrive through intentionality, clarity, and creating healthy cultures. He is convinced that a healthy church is led by a healthy team with great chemistry, and loves partnering with Chemistry’s churches to do great things for the Kingdom.

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