He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:15-18 ESV)
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)
There is no doubt that according to the Scriptures, Christ is the Supreme Head of the Church, His Body. The Church is here defined not as a building, not as a social club, not as a weekly appointment, but as the people of God redeemed by the blood of Christ. These people have been born again. They have passed from eternal death to eternal life. They are now adopted by their Heavenly Father to be part of His family forever. Everything about them is different. They are completely transformed, now that Christ has changed them. They are indeed “new creations” in Christ.
When we fail to define the church in this way, we get into all kinds of trouble when we “do church.” If we think of the church as a building, those who put up the brick and mortar and those who paid for the brick and mortar see the church as “their church.” (What then happens when someone else wants to paint the brick and mortar?) If we think of the church as a social club, those who pay their “dues” expect certain perks to be given to them from the “paid staff,” whom they can fire if they don’t like what they are receiving, because “We pay their salary.” If they see the church as another weekly appointment, they can cancel the appointment if another more fun and “profitable” use of their time can be found. After all, their time is their own, and they can choose to do with their time what they choose.
All of these misconceptions about the church flow from a popular concept communicated in our churches today – “ownership”. We want our people to feel “ownership” in the church so that they become more involved. There is nothing more destructive than this. When someone feels like they are the “owner,” they think they can control what they paid for. They expect a certain return on their investment. If what they own does not give them what they want and the cost outweighs the benefit, what do they do? They sell. Ownership is all about what you pay and what you get in return for your investment.
Is there anything more unbiblical? I don’t want people to think that the church is theirs – it belongs to Christ! And if they are part of the true church (the called-out redeemed ones), it is because they belong to Christ! He is our Head – our owner. He calls the shots. It is all about what He gets in return for His investment. He paid for the church by His shed blood!
Instead of feeling like owners, I want people to feel like they belong to the church because they belong to Christ. If people feel like they are the owners, for them the church becomes all about power and control and getting a return for their investment. This is one of the greatest reasons the western church is so unhealthy and unfruitful. In the west, we base our church structure on a corporate model where we try to make all the people co-owners, with the staff being some kind of controlling partner. But in this model, I guarantee that there will be a power struggle between investors and staff. Each wants the church to be what they want it to be. After all, aren’t they “the owners”?
I repeat – Christ is the Head of His Church!