With the growth of denominational and non-denominational groups, the expressions “my church”, “our church”, “your church”, and “their church” have also become part of many a church jargon. Of course, none of the users of such expressions intend to mean that the church “belongs” to them in the sense of “ownership”. Usually, users of these phrases only may mean to say “the local church group that I am going to or am part of”. Or do they?
Certainly, only Christ has used the expression “My church” and “My sheep” in the Bible. He said,
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)
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. (Joh 21:17)
The apostles only used expressions such as “the church in Jerusalem” and “the church in your house” (Acts 11:22; Philem 1:2). When talking to the Ephesian elders, Paul said:
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Act 20:28)
Notice, he says “the church of God”.
Usually, pastors may be using the phrase “my church” in the sense of “the flock I am made accountable of”. However, many servants of God consciously refuse to use such phrases. They feel grieved when anyone would use such a phrase and will humbly correct it as “Christ’s church” or the “church of Jesus”, and so on; rightly so.
But, in a highly fragmented world, where at times one may find several “churches” in the same location, or even the same building(!), people wish to identify with some name to distinguish between the groups, and these pronouns sound very meaningful and useful to them in such contexts. But, these phrases also often express the sense of fragmentation.
One danger of possessiveness is to forget that the Chief Shepherd is the one who cares for each His flock. The other danger of fragmented identities is that one may not feel so much at one with a member going to another group. But, if one cannot love his neighbor whom he sees, how can he love the Lord whom he doesn’t see? How real is this sense of “belongedness” to some group? Could it be cultic or communal to some extent? The same question can also be asked of para-church missionary movements and groups.
The flock is essentially the flock of God. The church is the sheep of God. Pastors and elders are only overseers entrusted with the care of the sheep. This doesn’t mean that they become restricted in their accountability for just flocks of one “denomination” and “group”. This responsibility is not man-appointed and doesn’t have boundaries imposed by men. It also doesn’t end with retirements imposed by man. Their accountability is primarily to God and for whoever the Lord appoints them to take care of.
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. (1Pe 5:2-4)