Pastors and church leaders sometimes forget that the church belongs to the people. Yes, they lead and we submit to their leadership, however, they serve the people at the pleasure of God and at the pleasure of the people, because if the people leave, there would be no one to lead.
As church members, we invest in the church. We invest our money, our time and talents along with our gifts of tithes and offerings. We are told from the day we first enter through the church doors to give our tithes to support the store house. However, less is taught about giving our offerings which is not just money but giving of time and talent. This is just as important as tithing. I was reminded of this when I recently spoke to my aunt about her investment in her church.She has provided the church with a copier, fax machine and new carpet. She has also purchased furniture for the church and paid some of the church's bills. She has willingly given these gifts in addition to paying her tithes. Of course she, rightfully, feels she has a stake in what happens at her church. This widow of 50 years has made a sacrificial, personal investment in her church.
After more than 70 years church experience, church attendance, paying tithes, giving offerings, and more than 50 years as a church member at her church, she is currently at odds with her pastor. She does not feel that her pastor knows or have even considered what she has to offer or what she has given in the past, for that matter. Although he has been at the church for nearly a year, her pastor has not taken the time to learn the history of the church or its members. She is not alone in her feelings. She told me that several long-time church members feel the same way. They feel ignored, overlooked and disrespected.
I'm familiar with pastors having ownership of the church. This was the case in some of the churches I grew up in. I heard one pastor say to the congregation if anyone did not like the way he ran the church, leave. Many did leave and so did I. But for my aunt, at her age and for what she has invested in her church, she feels that's not an option for her, and I agree.
In listening to her story, I was reminded that in the church I currently attend one of our long-time members also re-carpeted the church some years ago. This member's personal investment is between her and God and only a few church members. She has not gone around boasting or saying anything about it. I don't believe the new pastor even knows about it. She feels that this is her church and although she has felt dissatisfaction with some of the decisions made by church leaders over the years, she, like my aunt, wouldn't consider leaving the church either.
Pastors and church members should be responsible to each other. They need each other. Both must be good stewards and protect the assets of the church. Many of us, however, are not that invested in church. Too many of us go to church for what we can get and think little of what we can give. But in addition to going to church to praise God and listen to His word, we should give of ourselves completely to the work of the Lord. This includes our time, our finances, and our material possessions. And we should give willingly and cheerfully (Matt 10:37-39; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 14:26-35). But pastors could be more considerate of members' offerings and gifts and not just their tithes. They should remember that they serve the people as well as God... because it's the People's church!