As I was sitting in my study trying to decide what to share in this perspective, the telephone rang. When I answered with “good morning, this is Lockport Church” I heard only silence. I said hello again and was just ready to hang up when I heard a weak voice with a strong accent say, “hello, hello?” I repeated my greeting (knowing this was almost certainly a sales call) and the voice very quickly gave his name and company and asked, “Could I speak with the owner of the business?” I couldn’t resist that opportunity so I replied, “This is a church so that would be God.” There was a verrrry long pause on the other end. I was tempted to let him know that the owner could be accessed anytime through prayer, but thought I had done enough so I let him know that I was the pastor, found out what he was peddling, and said no thanks.
After I hung up, I began to think about that silly little conversation. He seemed genuinely puzzled by the idea that God owns Lockport Church. He obviously was not impressed with my wit; he just wanted to talk to someone who could buy his services. It was, to him, an odd statement that God owns this church. I wonder how many of us feel the same way. It is not all that difficult to forget that this is God’s work and not our own; we can begin to claim that it is ours!
Sometimes we may feel that way because we have contributed substantial amounts of money and/or “sweat equity” to the ongoing ministry or to upkeep of the physical building. We think that it is our investment, and thus we have rights of ownership. In reality, whatever we gave or did we probably at the time called a gift to the lord. Was it a gift, or were we trying to “buy in” to His work? If it was truly a gift it gives us no right of ownership.
Other times we may feel that we have ownership because we have occupied a pew in this building for a long time – kind of a spiritual squatter’s right. We have been part of this so long that we must have some right of ownership; a position that no one else could have unless they have been here longer. First, that is faulty thinking; occupying something does not make it yours. When our family moved here we rented a house for 15 years (and in those years we fixed, painted, repaired, etc.). The day we moved out it was no more ours than the day we moved in. Even if we were to go with that flawed thinking we would quickly have to admit that God has occupied this place much longer than any of us!
Another reason we sometimes begin to feel that we own this ministry is that we occupy a position of leadership. Since we are given the privilege of having some measure of control we mistakenly equate that with ownership. The right thought is that we are “stewards” – that is, we are given the privilege to exercise control over what belongs to someone else. There are a lot of benefits to that as we often can “treat it like it is our own” but at the end of the day it is His, not ours. Everything we do is ultimately for his benefit, not our own.
In reality, all that we have and all that we are belongs to Christ, even our very persons! The apostle Paul wrote, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1Corinthians 6:20 NIV). May we always recognize His ownership and handle His possessions with care. There is great joy in realizing what He has entrusted to us!