Skewed views of church ownership

Posted on 12 September 2019 by LeslieM

Today’s thoughts are directed to vocational ministers, lay-leaders and members of local churches across all denominations. One of my long-time pet peeves is those who think of and call any ministry “theirs.” Have you ever heard a preacher or lay-person use the phrase “my church?” The verbiage may seem harmless, but that statement is the first step down a very slippery slope!

Jesus clearly claimed the church as HIS when He said, “I will build MY church” (Matthew 16:18). The church is referred to as “Christ’s body, of which He is the Head” (Ephesians 1:22-23). In the same passage, the Apostle Paul declared Christ to be the bridegroom, Who lovingly and sacrificially chose the church to be HIS “Bride” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Jesus gave Himself up for the church, “to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the Word.” In addition, we see that one day there will be a wedding feast held in Heaven called the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” followed by Christ’s eternal union with His bride (Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-2).

These passages are very clear and vitally important because if we ever mistakenly believe the church is “ours,” that skewed view will result in sinful behavior. During my 35 years of ministry, I have been a witness to pastors, deacons, and lay-people who have been willing to divide or harm a congregation in order to make a point or to get their way. I have seen church members manipulate people and/or circumstances for personal gain. I have seen people attack churches and church leaders through gossip, letter writing, texting and/or phone calling campaigns. I have seen cowards attack ministries using the weapon of a keyboard to post negativity on social media. Such actions clearly reveal those who believe the church belongs to them.

One such illustration is seen in a lady who left a church over five years ago, but still regularly and “religiously” tries to convince members to leave “her” former church and start attending “her” new church. Did you catch that … she wants them to attend “her” church. Such proselytizing only happens when a person has the mindset that the church belongs to them. Attempting to poach for or solicit members from the former church is evidence of a skewed view of church ownership. You might expect such action from a layperson; but, sadly, I have witnessed pastors, staff members, Christian School employees, Deacons and other lay-leaders who have intentionally tried to inflict harm as they left a ministry. No one who understands scripture and believes the church belongs to Christ would ever try to harm, divide, damage or destroy God’s church – ever!

The Apostle Paul states in Ephesians 5:25-27 that Christ “gave up His life for her (the church) 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.27 He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish.” You see, when a person truly understands that Christ died for His Church, we realized how much He really loves her! Realizing that, who would dare throw mud on the wedding dress of Christ’s Bride? Who would speak ill or maliciously against Christ’s Bride? Who would try to cause division within or gossip about Christ’s Bride? Answer – only those who do not know or respect the Bridegroom.

The greatest indicator of your belief about church ownership is not seen while attending a specific church, but rather when you leave that church. Serving while attending is easy, but a person’s true character is seen by the manner in which they leave. Some feel the church owes them something because of their tenure, how much money they have given or how influential they have been. Some take credit for past successes, while hoping for future failure. Some wreak havoc, while others aide in a smooth transition. Some encourage those who remain, while others attempt to proselytize. The bottom-line is that how you treat the Bride (the church) reveals the level of respect you have for the Bridegroom. This is a great reminder that the church belongs to Jesus Christ, so let us behave with integrity and treat her accordingly.

Dr. Gary A. Colboch is Senior Pastor at Grace Church located at 501 NE 48 St. in Pompano Beach. For more information, call 954-421-0190 or pastor@gbcfl.org.

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