9.17.2006

His Church

Well, there we were, worshiping with the congregation where I was born and raised, going to church one last time before moving to Virginia. And, lo and behold, the message was on Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus promises to build His Church. And it IS His. Many churches are known by the pastor’s name, we heard in the sermon this morning – oh, that’s Rev. Jones’ church. No, people, it is not his church. No, pastor, it is not your church. For myself, I’ve found it the custom where I grew up for pastors talking shop with each other to refer to church leaders as “my elders and deacons.” Sorry, it may be a verbal short-hand, but please go out of your way to avoid putting it that way! It is God’s church, given to His Son Jesus Christ as an inheritance and reward, a people purchased for Himself, by His own dear blood. And hell itself won’t shake her foundations.

My friend and mentor who was preaching also had an insight I hadn’t heard before: Roman Catholics use this verse to defend the Pope – you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church…” Yet the very next thing that happens is Peter making a mistake and Jesus calling him Satan! So much for papal infallibility…

4 comments:

  1. Steve, while I agree with you, is there not a place for a pastor to refer to the church he has been given charge of as his church, not in the absolute sense, but in the sense of this is the group of believers that he has been given care of as the undershepherd of the good shepherd Jesus Christ? I ask because what else do you call those who you have been given charge over. You do have charge over them do you not? They are your church in that sense, and for me when I speak of the church I have charge over as my church, it is a reminder of the huge responsibility I have been given as an undershepherd, not to say that they are 'my church' in the absolute sense to do with as I will. I hope I am being clear as I pretty tired after leading worship twice this Lord's day.

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  2. I understand your point of view, and there is a sense of acknowledging responsibility by saying "that's mine". I guess the question is, whose responsibility is it? Is it the pastor's sole responsibility? Or is it the combined responsibility of all the elders as undershepherds?

    My co-laborers and I take our responsibilities as Christ's undershepherds very seriously. Although I am what most people would call a "ruling elder", my office is not simply one of governing. All the elders in our congregation acknowledge our pastoral responsibility within the church. So it isn't left only to the senior pastor to equip, exhort, and admonish the saints. That responsibility belongs to us all. So I would argue that it is incorrect for a minister to say "my congregation." The correct appelation would be "our congregation."

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  3. Conrad, I would agree with you technically, and since I do, I am not going to continue the discussion on mere semantic. The important part of Steve's post that all congregational members need to grasp a hold of is that the church is not and never has been theirs in terms of possession. It is Christ's church, and they are all given various gifts to minister within her that the gospel might spread and God be glorified. That sort of switch in understanding would certainly help in hindering some of the battles that are currently waged in congregations because one person who has been a long time member thinks it is their church.

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  4. Amen! I couldn't agree more. Thanks.

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