What Has Happened to the Church in America?

Could it be that the church has become something other than what Jesus intended? Did he have in mind the construction of multimillion dollar buildings and pastors who achieve rock star status, when he sacrificed everything and allowed himself to be beaten and crucified? Is there any place in the Bible where Jesus encourages his followers to pursue their best life now? Should programs come before the basic needs of people? And is there any justification for the competition that we see among churches today?

The evidence is all around us. Steeple envy is everywhere. Consumerism, competition and corporate America have infiltrated the church and have left us with something radically different from what we read in the pages of the Bible. Pastor and author Victor Cuccia takes us on a journey of rediscovering that which is beautiful about our faith, while at the same time challenging us to rethink much of what we have come to know as "church".

"There's something about this book.  It's a powerful book that can turn the religous world upside-down... It brings validation to those who feel like they are alone walking in the wilderness because they don't agree with the status quo in church."  
- S Clark

"Are you weary from giving your money to churches that seem to be focused on building their own kingdoms rather than expanding Gods Kingdom... Have you lost almost all hope in the American church? Vic brings us back to the basics, before Christianity became institutionalized, and back to the simple heart of the Gospel message."
-
Mike H

"Steeple Envy calls for a re-alignment of purpose, recalculation of practices, and a much needed revised approach to following Christ... Vic has masterfully woven together the essence of the gospel and practical ways we can move beyond the status quo. Reading this book is like learning how to walk again, but with a trusted and caring guide. To that end, this is a must read!"  
- Dr. Mercidieu “Phil” Phillips
Director of Church Planting for Converge SE




About Vic

profile

Victor Cuccia has been a pastor for more than 18 years and currently helps lead a spiritual community of Christ followers known as Journey Church of Jacksonville. It’s not one of the fastest growing churches in America, and for that he’s very grateful. He is also one of the cofounders of the 12x12 Love Project, an organization that seeks to eradicate poverty in one of the poorest areas of Guatemala.

Vic holds a Master of Divinity from Columbia International University but laughs at the thought that one could actually “master divinity.” He spends much of his time trying to encourage people to love and follow the Jesus of the Bible as opposed to the self-serving Jesus that many have created in their own image.

Vic makes his home in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife Roxane and their three children.

“We're living in a time when it's paramount for us to understand that the New Testament Church has nothing to do with buildings, denominations, institutions or programs. Along with God's presence, only one other factor is necessary in order to have a true expression of God's Church, and that's people. The Church is made up of those who name Jesus as their Savior and submit to Him as Lord. Therefore, I believe the time has come to lay all of our preconceived ideas and notions on the altar and begin to rethink Church.” Vic Cuccia



Introduction

What Happened?

There was a time when the church was very powerful, in the time when the early Christians rejoiced
at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days, the
church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society... Things are different now.

So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust. Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world.

---Martin Luther King, Jr.
penned in 1963 in his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail”

Has the church lost “its authenticity?” By its actions, has it “forfeited the loyalty of millions?” Is it currently being “dismissed” by many as an “irrelevant social club?” Have you recently met any young people whose “disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust?”

Forty-eight years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. warned his fellow clergymen that these things would happen if the church did not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church.

Hmm…maybe he was onto something.

Think about it. If you were to ask your friends to give you one word that best described the church in America, what kind of response do you think you would get? Do you think “sacrificial” would be at the top of their list? Would it be on their list at all?

Should it be?

What if you asked them to give you one word to describe Jesus? Do you think they would use the same adjectives that they used to describe the church?

Why do many people today describe the church with terms they would never use to describe Jesus Christ? Some of the words topping the list would be “judgmental,” “money-hungry,” “controlling,” “self-centered” and “fake.” I have actually heard each of these used by people to describe Christianity and or the church in America, but I have never heard anyone use such words when talking about Jesus.

Maybe it's just me, but I find this both confusing and disturbing. Christianity was founded on the life and teachings of Jesus. The Christian church is made up of those who claim to believe in Him and to follow His teaching. Then why is there such a disconnect between people's perception of Jesus and their perception of His followers?

Could it be that the church has become something other than what Jesus intended? Did He have in mind the construction of multimillion dollar buildings and pastors who achieve rock star status when He sacrificed everything and allowed Himself to be beaten and crucified? Is there any place in the Bible where Jesus encourages His followers to pursue their best life now? Should programs come before the basic needs of people? And is there any justification for the competition that we see among churches today?

The evidence is all around us. Steeple envy is everywhere. Consumerism, competition and corporate America have infiltrated the church. They have left us with something radically different from what we read in the pages of the Bible.

However, there are people all over the world who are finding that there is more to Jesus and His Church than what meets the eye. Some like Martin Luther King, Jr. have found themselves turning to the church-within-the-church as the hope of the world.

I am one of those people, and maybe you are too. Or maybe you're a part of the ever-growing group who has all but given up on organized religion. I understand. After going to seminary and serving as a pastor for 13 years, I realized that I was in a similar place; as a result, I have spent the last four years rethinking much of what I was taught. This has led me on a fascinating journey of rediscovering Jesus and His Church.

If any of this resonates with you, I would encourage you to read on. I don't claim to have all the answers; nevertheless, I do believe that there are answers to be found. I also believe that there is a lot at stake. So whatever you do, don't give in and don't give up.

Don't give in to the status quo, and don't just continue going through the motions, particularly if you know that something isn't right. Also, don't give up on your search for truth. Even if you've been let down by those who should have brought you hope and encouragement, don't give up.

“Jesus said, ‘Seek and you will find.'”

I am one who continues to seek. In the process, I have discovered that although people, religion and church may fail you, Jesus never will. So I invite you to join me on this journey of rediscovery.

“‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened'”
- Jesus (Matthew 7:7-8).