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Seventeen years ago I came to Richmond to pioneer a new church. The prophet Joel described young men seeing visions, and at twenty-six, my vision was to see this infant congregation of twelve become a large, mature church.

When I shared my vision at a denominational fellowship, I expected encouragement. But one of the older pastors looked me straight in the eye and said, "Young man, you work your side of the street, and I'll work mine." That was it; no one even bothered to respond to his statement.

Driving home I risked asking the two ministers in our car if they felt bothered by what our colleague had said. They replied, "You have to understand that's just the way a lot of ministers feel."

The often-unspoken and invisible competition between churches had become spoken and visible. At that point I had to decide how I would respond to competition among like-minded churches-and their pastors. Since I didn't want to play that game, I began to work out the plan I have employed over the years.

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