Someone asked a question the other day that really started the gears rolling in my mind. This person wasn’t trying to start a controversy or offend anybody, just curious. The question was, “Who owns this church?”
A few years back I received a phone call from another minister who was attempting to correct me and put me on the right track. This minister begin to outline her previous pastoral experience and then moved to the subject of who ‘owns’ the church. She told me that if I refused to let the people feel that they have ‘ownership,’ the people would refuse to get behind the vision. I repeated her statement back to her, from shock more that anything else, then I proceeded to ask, “So unless these people feel like they are part owner of this church, they won’t properly ‘support’ this church?” Her answer was, “yes. I have done this for years and I can tell you this is what you must do.”
After our discussion I was filled with many questions. Why would anyone think they could ‘own’ a church? Why would someone not give God what is His (tithe) and refuse to help in any way unless they could somehow feel like the church was a part of their personal investment?
After praying about it I could see the answer quite clearly. If this ex-pastor was correct, I might have a problem, but these people had a bigger problem. If this was correct, it simply meant that the people were only willing to labor and invest if they could somehow list the church among their personal possessions.
So let me ask you, “Who owns this church?” IF the answer is that it is OUR church, then maybe it doesn’t seem like such a burden to labor, building the programs, investing in the building, and all the endless needs. It makes it all seem more worthwhile because it is an investment in our personal net worth. Makes sense, doesn’t it? But what if we don’t ‘own’ this church. What if this church truly is unique in that God is the sole owner and we simply come into this place, His place, to be closer to Him? How much does that change things for us? Would this make it more difficult to get in the car after a long hard day to teach a class, be part of a Bible Study, or clean the building? After all, you would be doing those things for God’s house and not your own. God is God, can’t He take care of His own house?
Let’s suppose we got real radical and reasoned that, because it is God’s house, this is a great opportunity to show our Father that we love Him and cherish the love He has shown us. It may not be possible for us to enter Heaven and spend a couple of hours caring for our Loving Father, but this is His property, His church, and it is open to us, ready for us to enter and be both refreshed and to labor. Not for ourselves, but for Him. Isn’t that so much greater than our ‘ownership?’
***UPDATE – January 18, 2010
I have received some emails on this post so I will respond. A True Home Church should feel like a ‘Home.’ There is a difference in feeling at home and feeling like you are in charge of the home. God wants us to feel better in the church than anywhere else, more accepted, peaceful, and contented. He only wants us to let HIM be the Master of this House.