Summary: A reminder that belonging to God means being a part of His family, the Church
I don’t need the church. I feel just as close to God outdoors. I’m already pretty good without the Church, and that should count for something. I don’t need to go through all the motions because God already knows my heart.
If those words describe your heart, I’m glad you’re here this morning, because I want to help you evaluate your thoughts in view of God’s word and God’s plans for your life. You may be here because a friend brought you, and if that’s you, welcome! I’m glad you chose to come! And along the way, I also want to visit with this church - the people of CCC - because there are some thoughts here that will apply to all of us.
For years now, I’ve known people who cling to their claim of church membership. One poll showed that 69% of Americans claim membership in some church, and that about 40% attend worship services in a given week. But another review suggested that people tend to lie when answering pollsters about their church-going habits. Actual head count studies suggest the number is really about 20% of Protestants are in church each week. In other words, it’s not just people who never join the church that must think they don’t really need the church. I’m going take that one step further this morning and challenge even the people who are here most every week!
So, hang on! Here we go. And to lay the groundwork for all of this, let’s first talk about ownership:
I. Church Ownership Was Settled by Jesus’ Blood, Not My Check
The following churches all have something in common:
• All Saints Church in Pawleys Island, SC
• St. Luke's Community Church, Fresno, CA
• Episcopal congregations, in Long Beach, Newport Beach and North Hollywood, CA
• Church of St. James the Less in East Falls, PA
• Presbyterian Church of Hull, GA
Each of these churches is just one of many that in the past few years have become involved in ownership disputes. Their stories are all basically the same: the church is upset by the direction the denomination is headed, so they choose to leave it. When they do, the denomination wants them to give up the church property and buildings. Many of these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. It’s a fight over who owns the church. I want to show you how that has already been settled.
There are clearly some people who’ve never achieved “ownership” of a church family. When I hear someone speak about this church family saying things like “the people of that church” and “those people there” their words are betraying that they’ve chosen not to be numbered with “those people.”
One alternative is to think of this as “my church” – which is a good thing, really. We need to have an emotional ownership of what goes on here. We need to not be detached from what’s being done through this group. It’s refreshing to hear someone say “My church family is so important to me” or “Our church participated in that!” Jesus said that where our treasure is, there our heart would be also. A lot peoples’ hearts are with this church, because they’ve placed their treasure here.
The problem is, when we invest ourselves into the Kingdom, when we accept ownership of the responsibilities that God sets in front of us, Satan seizes the opportunity to try to get us to develop a very earthly, very human ownership too. It’s the attitude that says, “I donated that piece of furniture.” “I established that program.” “I set up that way of doing things.” “I’ve been doing this longer than anyone else.” Somewhere, in the midst of rightly investing of ourselves in the Lord’s Church, we easily forget that’s what it is – the Lord’s Church.
So, let’s take a quick aside to revisit this idea of church ownership and make sure that we have it straight from the start.
Mt 16. Peter has just stated in no uncertain terms that Jesus is God’s Anointed One – that He is the Son of God. Jesus said,
Matthew 16:17-18 "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Jesus not only said He would be the One doing the building, that it would prevail, but also that it was His Church. Even though Peter would help in that building, even though 10 of those 12 men would give their lives helping build that church, Jesus said it belonged to HIM.
Paul tells us just how seriously Jesus takes this ownership…