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Assumptions ministry leaders make about ownership

| by Brian Thorstad

Many corporations offer stock options to their employees. It works out pretty well for everyone. Employees get a piece of the company. Employers get the increased dedication from their employees. 

Sadly, many Christian workers make the mistake of assuming that they are earning shares in the ministries they work for through their hard work and dedication. It seems logical.

However, it is not Biblical. In Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul is found encouraging the elders of the church at Ephesus to “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (emphasis mine).

God is the sole owner of the church. Always has been. Always will be. He paid for it with the priceless blood of Christ. He moves his servants from one location to another as he pleases (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). He rewards us for our laboron His building project(1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and 4:1-5). It is always His property.It is always His building project.  

However, we’ve all heard variations of the following: 

“I’m a charter member.  How dare they make that change without my approval?”

“I’ve worked hard in this church for thirty years, and I’m not going to let the new pastor ruin it!”

“After founding the church and leading it for forty years, I can’t sit by and let the new pastor destroy what I built.” 

This is no small matter. Some of the above sound awful, coming from others. However, when it is our turn to feel this way, it hurts, and it seems illogical that we could work so hard for so long and end up with so little clout.  

If you feel robbed of your investment—and I’ve been there myself—you may find the following steps to be helpful. 

1. See the one real owner of the church, and rejoice.  When I stop and think about it, I’m so glad that God himself is the only owner of his church. Sure, I’d like to have my vote at the annual meeting, but would I really want everybody else to have theirs?  Would I want influence in God’s kingdom to go to those who merely put in the most hours of labor, regardless of their motives, wisdom or character?  

2. Set your eyes on things above and serve God by faith.  Setting our eyes on things above is not just a good suggestion, it is a command of God (Colossians 3 and Hebrews 12). That means we must get our hearts and minds off our kingdoms and ourcongregations. As much as I love local churches, they are a means to an end. They are not the kingdom, and they are not eternal. They exist to build the kingdom of God.  

Serving by faith means, among other things, that we remember that God is keeping track of the motives of our hearts and the labor that flows from them. At the reward seat, He will reward us perfectlyfor what we’ve done. 

No one can undo what we’ve done or take away the rewards we have earned. Even if we have to walk away from a ministry in great pain, nothing of what we’ve done for eternity will be lost. 

3. Step away, if you’re behaving badly.  By all means, for the sake of that eternal fruit and those heavenly rewards, walk away (or move away) the moment you sense that you are crossing the line into meddling in a former ministry. I say this as one who is guilty as charged and has learned to run from the temptation to interfere. 

No, God doesn’t offer stock options. I, for one, am content with that arrangement.

Photo source: istock


Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.



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