Whose Church Is It?

Does any believer have the right to verbally take sole ownership of the church?

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John 20:27 – Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

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I have heard it so often in my life, and especially in my almost five decades of ministry.  Wherever I travel; locally, in our nation, or internationally, I have heard it.  In every culture and within every ethnicity where I have ministered, I have heard it.  I have heard it in churches, ministers’ meetings, prayer meetings, on social occasions, or just over coffee.  So, what is it I have heard?  I have heard people, especially pastors, calling the church they serve “my church.”  I understand how personal a pastoral ministry is.  I served as the pastor of one church for 28 years.  You can rest assured, it was very personal.  I knew and loved the people, watched the people grow and grew with them.  I dedicated the babies, married couples, ordained leaders, led boards and leadership teams, cast vision, cried with them, laughed with them, labored with them, fought battles with them, and buried them.  It was personal.   To the degree that the church I served was the focal point of my ministry, and that only the Lord and my family had priority over that church, I understand the sense of taking ownership of that local church.  But somehow, in nearly three decades, in all I face, in all I did, in the laughing, in the crying, in the good times and in the struggles, I could never really bring myself to call it “my church.”  That thought often came to my mind, but every time it did, I would take a moment and look at my hands, and for the life of me, I could never see any holes there.

Once again, I understand the responsibility that befalls the pastor.  As the pastor of the church, the pulpit was mine.  While I served as pastor, I was in control of who stood in that pulpit to minister.  The church board was mind.  It did not represent the body of believers to me, as in a democracy.  Rather, it represented me to the body as we served together in leadership.  They were invaluable in their loving service to the church.  BUT!  BUT!  BUT!  The church was NOT mine!  The church belonged, and still does, to the Lord!  I can tell you truthfully that in my 28-year pastorate, I did not call the church, “my church,” for it was not.  Speaking as a member of that congregation, I would often refer to the church as “our church,” as it was the body of our belonging.  But as pastor, it was NOT “my church.”

Note that I do not take offence when I hear others call the church they pastor, “my church.”  This is a point of choice to which I have given myself.  I simply choose to hold dear the ownership of the church as belonging to ONE, and His Name is Jesus.  He is the One with holes in His hands and feet (holes that are still there in His glorified body).  It is His church, and I am deeply honored to have been trusted by Him to stand in leading service in His work.  To God be the glory!  Just a thought on my part. 

Manna for Today – John 20:19-31; Ephesians 5:23

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