Summary: Answers the question, "Who Owns the Church?"
“Who Owns the Church”
January 11, 2008
Have you ever noticed that the most profound things come from the mouth of babes? My grandson Nate and I went to the Church New Year’s day to clean up after our wonderful New Year’s Eve party. On the way there he asked, “Granpa, do you own the church?” I said, “No. I just manage it.” He says, “Well, who owns it?” I tried to tell him that the Sacramento District Church of the Nazarene owned it – or held title to the property. Apparently that wasn’t good enough. An hour or so later, while we were busy at church, he asked again, “Granpa, who owns the church.”
I thought about telling him again who possesses the title, but he’s only five. That wasn’t working. So I said, “God owns the church, and I work for him. I’m kind of like his manager of this church.” That seemed to satisfy him.
But Nate’s question got me to thinking. And this morning I would like us to consider that question, “Who owns the church.” Is it the Sacramento District Church of the Nazarene? Is it the local people here who have given tithes and offerings and worked so hard to keep the doors open? Is it the pastor? Is it the people? “Who owns the church? Before I answer that, we ought to define what the church is. In the articles of faith of the Church of the Nazarene manual, it says about the church:
XI. The Church
15. We believe in the Church, the community that confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, the covenant people of God made new in Christ, the Body of Christ called together by the Holy Spirit through the Word.
God calls the Church to express its life in the unity and fellowship of the Spirit; in worship through the preaching of the Word, observance of the sacraments, and ministry in His name; by obedience to Christ and mutual accountability.
The mission of the Church in the world is to continue the redemptive work of Christ in the power of the Spirit through holy living, evangelism, discipleship, and service.
The Church is a historical reality, which organizes itself in culturally conditioned forms; exists both as local congregations and as a universal body; sets apart persons called of God for specific ministries. God calls the Church to live under His rule in anticipation of the consummation at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“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.” Matthew 16:18
So let’s review the facts so far. The Church is Jesus’. It was His idea. He says, “I will build MY church. He clearly establishes ownership. We must never lose sight of that fact. The church DOES belong to God.
But what IS the church? Our manual says it is a bunch of people who confess Jesus Christ as their Lord (to paraphrase). I think that’s pretty accurate. The church is a bunch of people who have been called out of the world to follow Jesus Christ. The manual says the church is made up of everyone who has made Jesus their Lord. That’s the universal church. Some churches and cults think they are the only ‘true’ church. That’s not biblical and it’s a mark of a cult. The universal church is divided into different bodies; different denominations; different local churches. We are one of those local bodies who belong to the Lord. This Church, on 954 North Old Stage Road, belongs to Jesus Christ, Himself – ultimately.
Jesus, the creator and owner of the church, was about to ascend to heaven. The Scripture says,
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
Do you understand what is going on here? Jesus, the Creator and Owner of the Church, is about to leave planet earth. He is going to ascend to heaven and take His rightful place on the throne of God. But before He does that, He gives the stewardship for the Church to the people. He says to us, “As the Father has sent me – I am sending you.” He then goes on to empower them for service.
I think every Christian needs to realize that God owns the church and if God owns them; if they have been purchased with the blood of Christ – they are a part of the church. Some people have resisted that teaching through the ages. In the sixties, we had the anti-establishment movement where “Jesus freaks” in their immaturity and rebelliousness, rejected the established churches and started their own little groups. They didn’t know it – but they were still a part of the establishment – if they were Christians. And many grew up and matured and accomplished much for the mission of the Church.