By Pastor Jesse Slimak LeRoy Covenant Church

One day when checking our church’s mailbox I came across an interesting letter. It was addressed to: “Attention: owner/manager” of the church. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was clearly a mass mailing solicitation letter with “Attention: owner/manager” copied on all the letters sent out. It was clearly misaddressed for the church, since no church has an “owner.”  

However, there is an owner of church. The Apostle Paul addressing the elders of the Ephesian church says this: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28 NIV). 

What a powerful and instructive statement. The church belongs to Jesus, not us. He loves the church so much that he bought it with his blood. We do not own the church, or Jesus for that matter, but he owns us. This should give us pause when we are inclined to act like we do own the church, whether that church is the local body of believers we regularly worship with, or Church (with a capital “C”) as in the Church as a whole.

Imagine someone lending you something, just any old thing, but something they treasured; maybe a precious family heirloom. Now imagine you returned it all mangled and damaged because you misused it or were careless with it. At the least, you are sending the message you don’t value the item. At the worst, though, you are saying your friendship is not important with that person because you chose to ignore or mistreat something your friend valued greatly. 

When we mistreat or misuse the church we are sending a message to the Owner. The church isn’t just a mere “thing,” though. It is made up of people. People Jesus loves. The church is not just an item, but is made up of people, souls Jesus died for.

Too often Christians in our society have acted as if they owned the church. At its worst, Christian leaders will use the power of their position in the church to support their own pet agendas. It happens at both the national level and the local level. Instead, leaders in any church represent that church and are called to do so with servants’ hearts. Any Christian leader, whether a popular nationally recognized leader, or an elder/deacon/board member of one’s local church, should always lead from a place of humility recognizing the church is not theirs. To do otherwise acts like we are the owners, rather than the ones owned.

The church is not our possession; instead, we are owned by Jesus through the church. For all who lead in any way in their churches, let’s be found faithful stewards of what He has entrusted to our care. After all, Jesus loved the church enough to literally shed his blood for it. That is not just a treasured possession — that is a treasured people.