What is the problem with “my church?” I don’t mean FBC Monahans where I work. I mean the phrase, “my church.” This morning I decided to spend some time with the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation 2-3. I’ll be talking more about that in coming posts, but for today I want to reflect for a minute on how we identify with the church.
Many people who attend worship services with any sort of regularity probably identify with a specific church. They have a church that they are most likely to go to should they decide to attend a worship service. Some church hop, going from congregation to congregation, we’ll deal with that issue in another post. Those that identify with a specific local church will often refer to it as “my church.”
I’m not trying to be legalistic here, there’s really nothing wrong with the words, but there is something wrong when the words take root in our heart. The church belongs to God. We know this on a spiritual/intellectual level. The problem is on the spiritual/emotional side of things. While we may know that our church belongs to God, we live and act as though it belongs to us.
When I was reflecting on this idea, I thought of some of my students, particularly those who are presently dating. Those in new relationships in particular, really like to use the phrase, “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend.” When a teen dating relationship is unhealthy, they may try to exert pressure on their boyfriend/girlfriend to act in a manner that goes against what their parents have said or what the Bible teaches. This happens in part because they see the other person first as their boyfriend/girlfriend. They don’t see the other person first as a child of God and second a child of their parents, but as “their girlfriend.” As their girlfriend, they should first meet their desires and needs.
When we let ourselves begin thinking of a local church as “ours,” we run the same risk. We run the risk of seeking our personal desires and preferences first. Even though we intellectually understand that the church first belongs to God we stop living that way; just as a teen does when they stop living like their boyfriend is first a child of God and second a child of their parents.
This phrase presents a second problem. When we think of our church as “my church,” we run the risk of forgetting that we are the church and that WE belong to Jesus Christ. It is not just that the local church belongs to God, but we as a part of the church also belong to him. Again, let’s go back to the dating teens.
When a teen gets into a relationship, passions can run high, excitement can run high. It’s easy for them to lose sight of those to whom they first belong. It is easy for them to lose sight of their status as God’s child. It is easy for them to forget that they are their parent’s son or daughter. God and, hopefully, their parents have given them biblical boundaries that their teenage passions will encourage them to push. The more they think of themselves as a boyfriend or girlfriend rather than a child of God and their parents the easier it will be to put personal desires over the desires of their Father God and their parents.
When we think of the church as ours, it is easy to forget that we are a member of the church and belong to God, our Father. Our desires and passions should be in alignment with God’s desires and commands. We have to submit ourselves to the will of the Father regardless of our preferences.
I hope that when you use the phrase, “my church,” you will do so cautiously and guard your heart against treating the church as a possession. It belongs to another Master.