Allan Bevere’s post, What Does Your Congregation See, got me thinking about the sense of ownership laity, and I would say some clergy, have for their church. Like I stated in my last sermon, Open Doors, “Fear of change paralyzes congregations and pushes them into locked rooms. The church they meet in turns into, ‘My Church.’ They claim possession over it and like a two year old, they hold onto it and repeat over and over again, ‘Mine! Mine! Mine!'” People grow up in a church. They are baptized and married in that church. They have experienced God, pain, joy, and sorrow in that church. Allan is right, this is an important question to ask, “When your congregation assembles for worship on Sunday morning, do they look at the empty pews and see the people who used to sit there, or do they envision the people who they hope will sit there in the future?”
Our congregations need to realize that although they may attend that certain church for their entire lives, although they give their sweat, money, and prayers, to that congregation, it still doesn’t make that church ‘theirs.’
Paragraph 2501 of the Discipline states, “All properties of United Methodist local churches and other United Methodist agencies and institutions are held, in trust [emphasis not mine], for the benefit of the entire denomination, and ownership and usage of church property is subject to the Discipline.” All property, from sanctuaries, to fellowship halls, to education buildings to parsonages, are all property of the denomination and not the local church.
I attempt to mention this every time I can because I think it is important to remind people we are apart of something bigger than ourselves. I have never preached on the Trust Clause but Allan’s post got me thinking about what a sermon on that would look like. Congregations and clergy need to be reminded of this often because it points to who we are as a Church and as United Methodists.
Because we are apart of a denomination we are in charge of living up to the mission of that denomination. Paragraph 120 gives all local churches their mission statement, “The Mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” This is what we are to be about. We are not a social club full of members but we are disciple-making arenas. Even more important than our denomination, we are the body of Christ and we need to be doing our part. The Trust Clause enables us to keep our heads in the game and not concentrate on what we perceive as ‘ours’ or ‘mine.’ When we do that, we lose focus that it is all God’s to begin with and what our true purpose is, DISCIPLE-MAKING.