The Church?

Early in my walk with the Lord as a member of a congregation, I’d always wondered about the lack of authentic life in our gatherings— the difference between what I saw in the Word of God and what I saw in many church services, conferences, meetings and the everyday lives of Christians— even my own life. I saw many good people working jobs, striving to serve God, providing for their families and generally doing what they thought was expected of them, but they seemed a little disconnected and powerless. Yet I always attributed that lack to the fundamental weakness of the parishioners— converts covered by Jesus’ blood, culled from a spiritually dull and apathetic society. It must be our lack of faith and obedience, I thought. In turn, I sympathized with pastors and others in Christian leadership who struggled to do their best with those who came wandering through the door. All that changed when I began to observe life from the other side of the altar. Stepping into ministry— first as a youth pastor and later as a lead pastor— revealed the inner workings of the church; a view beyond the curtain. Sadly, what I saw was underwhelming. I discovered a lack of power, direction, and apathy among some of the leadership. In trying to understand the source, however, I found that the congregation blamed their leaders and the leaders blamed their congregations. Neither side took full responsibility, and neither side seemed satisfied. I found many leaders who had given up and were just trying to maintain. A few still earnestly sought God, but others were recoiling from once having reached out to the sea of humanity with idealistic fervor, only to be tossed back to shore with a revised mindset deemed more practical and reality-based. Many —too many— were stressed out, over-burdened, weighed down and over worked. The majority, but certainly not all, had succumbed to a business mentality rather than embracing a kingdom mindset. They operated their local churches with a focus on increasing attendance, monetary flow and programs, while neglecting the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Tragically, I also found committed leaders drowning in a sea of impossible expectations and entrenched apathy.

Many good people across the country had simply given up and quit the ministry. When the Lord spoke to me about starting a church, I told Him that if this was what being a pastor was all about, I did not want it. He replied: I didn’t ask you to. That was all He needed to say;

I knew there was a better way. My heart yearned to see the church free, alive, and productive. As I sought God on behalf of the people who were being broken by the very organization that should have been helping them, I realized that this could not be what Jesus died for. We needed to change. We had to move forward. We had to move out of this manmade, business mindset and into what began in the Book of Acts. We had to advance to become what Jesus called us to be. In my search, I began to question everything. Is this what church is all about? Is this what God intended His children to be and to accomplish ? Why are we so weak and powerless? How has the church become a business? With all the outreaches, events and even the sheer number of churches in America, why does our culture look more like Hell than Heaven? The Bible tells us that Jesus is returning for a beautiful, victorious bride, not one hiding in defeat, battered and bruised. When I read the promises and provisions the Lord has given to us now in this life, I realize that so many of us live like beggars. Most of us are just existing, waiting for Jesus to return and straighten the whole mess out. Is this the abundant life Jesus came to give us? Have we missed something?

I knew the problem was with us and not the Lord.

Joe Nicola

Excerpt from my book “Ekklesia: The Government of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth” 

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