I recently have been reading through an excellent book that was recommended to me by a mentor of mine. The book is titled Who Stole my Church by Gordon MacDonald. The book is creatively written and tells of a Pastor’s venture to help a small church be more open to change. The book identifies the church’s need to adapt their approach in worship and sharing the Gospel to the culture around them. One of the things that have stood out to me recently is the way that Christian culture has taken ownership of the church. I recently have felt convicted in talking about the church that I worship with as “my” church.
The Danger of the Possessive
I believe that the way we talk about the church and refer to the church has done a great disservice to what it means to be the body of Christ. First of all the break down in the word church. The church has ceased to be a body of believers and has instead been recognized as a place or building. Along side the loss of the correct definition for church, believers look at the local church as something that they have ownership over. I am not saying that every person who refers to the body they meet with as my church has some sort of agenda or is trying to steal the church but I believe we need to change the way we refer to and think about the church as a whole.
So what’s the big deal?
The first thing we need to do is know that the church we attend is not “ours.” When we refer to something with a possessive it means that we have some sort of ownership over it. Often times we think that because we have faithfully given, served and attended a local church that we have some right to ownership over it. This comes from thinking of the church as a building or as a service that is supposed to satisfy our wants and cater to our preferences. Pastor’s fall into this same line of thinking. They think that their commitment, hard work and role of leadership gives them ownership of the church they are pastoring.
If the church is not ours than whose is it?
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which HE obtained with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
The church belongs to God which was obtained through the blood of Christ. We must never forget that the church is under the rule and leadership of Christ as the head. This verse talks about the role of overseers and the position of leadership that was granted to them through the Holy Spirit. As a Pastor my role is to make sure that we are faithfully serving and following Christ. Not pleasing the flock and leading them to their preferences but instead leading them out of their comforts and to the mission field. The scariest place you can be is at a church that doesn’t push you to get out of your comfort zone and take the gospel to the ends of the Earth.
Possession leads to Isolation
Another danger of thinking of the church in the possessive is it produces isolation. What I mean is whenever we start thinking of the local church we attend as “ours” or “mine” it naturally causes division from the rest of the body of Christ. The scripture describes the church based on its location. For example: The church at Ephesus, the church in Rome, etc. Not one time do the biblical writers refer to the church as “theirs” or “mine.” That right is referred to Christ. The church is the body of believers world wide. Bought by the blood of Christ and lead by the Holy Spirit. We get the opportunity to give to the church, serve in the church and share the gospel with the world. Trust the leadership of Christ as the chief shepherd of your church, trust the appointing of the pastor as the under shepherd, and pray that God would give you a clear understanding of His will for your life as a part of THE church.
P.S. I am not saying you shouldn’t refer to the place you worship as your church but that you should always be evaluating the way you see the church. Trying to describe the church and talk to other people about the church you attend would give you a headache if you didn’t use the possessive form. Believe me I have tried.
God bless, Pastor Caleb