“It’s a rental.”
It was a perfect day for the beach, and my new bride and I had the top down in a fun but gutless Mustang. We had left the main track miles ago and were tearing down a dirt road riddled with potholes. My faith in the directions our host had given us was waning, but I was still having a good time. There was a sign saying something about four-wheel drive a few clicks back, but I didn’t bother getting the details. My wife began to get nervous about our adventure and asked if we should be taking a Mustang on a road like this. Without hesitation, I uttered those three little words that put our minds at ease and that have been used by most of us at one time or another to justify the reckless disregard for vehicle degradation: “It’s a rental.”
It’s amazing how differently we treat things that we own versus those that we rent. Ownership gives us a sense of responsibility and care. It is ours and in some way it reflects who we are, so we take care of it.
If We Own It, We Treat It Well
For several years I drove an old Buick Park Avenue that my wife and I had bought from her grandfather. It was hot beige with beige interior. Not exactly the ride of choice for a young man, but it was mine. It was not nearly as nice as the gutless Mustang we rented on our honeymoon, yet I treated it much better. My treatment of a car reflects my level of ownership more than it reflects the value of the car itself.
In the same way, when it comes to the mission of the church, our responses reflect our ownership more than any other aspect of the mission.
Our churches may have a clear, innovative, Holy Spirit-inspired vision for how God is calling us to proclaim his kingdom (Luke 9:60), but if we collectively have no ownership of that mission, we will be hard pressed to achieve anything. God is not limited in accomplishing his plans by our lack of ownership, but he has chosen, for his glory and our joy, to employ us in his work, and I don’t want to miss out on that.
If We Own It, We Become Passionate
Now, if owning a car makes you more careful when driving it, owning an idea makes you more passionate when sharing it. To test this theory, go to your favorite coffee shop or pancake house and offer your opinion on the most recent presidential election. You will soon discover who owns the vision and ideologies that each candidate represented. You will also get a pretty clear idea who was not impressed with either candidate, at least not to the point of owning their ideals.
The folks who own the vision of their candidate can articulate it well and are intent on convincing others of the merits of their position. They may have attended rallies and bought bumper stickers and undoubtedly had a lawn sign. Ownership and passion for those ideals drove them to live differently, to join the cause. Those who did not own the vision of any particular candidate will most likely finish quietly eating their pancakes. They couldn’t care less and probably will not have a strong opinion until they are personally affected, in a positive or negative manner, by those ideas. They don’t own them and therefore have no passion for them.
Do You Own the Mission?
The same principle applies to your ownership of the mission within the church. Ownership inspires passion and leads to action. Yet, for the Christian ownership does not come from believing in a good idea but from faith in the good news. Our ability to own comes from the fact that we are owned by Christ (Ephesians 1:13–14). We inherit ownership from our Father.
We don’t need to manufacture ownership as much as we need to awaken the church to the reality that this is our mission.
It is already ours; we need only to exercise that ownership.
So what is the mission of your church? Can you articulate it? Does it instill passion in you that causes you to live your life differently? How about the rest of your church? Do your church members display passion and ownership of the mission or do they just finish their pancakes?
Adapted from Community: Taking Your Small Groups Off Life Support.