Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

When the Church's Enemy is the Church

  • E. Glenn Wagner FutureLead
  • Published Jul 28, 2011
When the Church's Enemy is the Church

Ever feel like spiritual terrorists are ambushing your church? Jesus told us that the work of authentic ministry would be resisted. He said "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18). The implication is that, although the gates of Hades will not ultimately prevail, they will always be trying to overcome Christ's church.

But the longer I'm in ministry, the more I'm beginning to think that "the gates of Hades" aren't our biggest problem. After all, Jesus said they would fail. To be honest, I see more kingdom resistance coming from within the church than from without. This wouldn't be the first time God's people resisted him. Stephen made it clear that Israel, God's Old Testament people, "always resisted the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:50). God's chosen people we're actually obstacles to him. They were the gates against whom God had to prevail. The church can be the same thing, if we're not careful. 

I'm beginning to think that if Jesus was teaching today, he might say something like, "I will build my church, and the gates of the church will not prevail against." Or, "I will build my church, and the gates of the pastors will not prevail against it." Or, "I will build my church, and the gates of the Elders and deacons will not prevail against it."

Maybe we've been giving Satan and hell too much credit for resisting the work of the church. Maybe, just maybe, the gates that are currently prevailing are us! Through our refusal to change, adapt, live by faith, listen to and follow the voice of God, and risk all for the sake of Christ we could be God's greatest obstacles in building his church. Leaders, we need to be sure that we're not resisting the move of God in our midst. We need to be certain that we've not allowed Satan and hell to go on vacation by doing their job of resisting God for them.

We need to look at every area of our churches to be sure they're designed to welcome God not resist him. Think of your leadership, worship, small groups, spiritual development, evangelism, and structure and ask yourself, "In this area of our church, are we in any way resisting God and doing Satan's work for him?" 

We need to return again and again to the pattern laid out in James 4:7. We're to "Submit to God," and "resist the devil." Let's be sure we're not submitting to the devil and resisting God.

By the way, I realize that when Stephen told Israel they were resisting God, they became, "furious and gnashed their teeth" (Acts 7:54). Then they proceeded to stone him. If I've evoked the same feeling in you, please send your stones to the editor, he'll add them to his growing collection.

E. Glenn Wagner is the founder and president of FutureLead (, an organization committed to equipping people to live and lead with purpose, passion and power. He's the author of numerous books including, God: An Honest Conversation for the Undecided (Waterbrook Press) and his latest book, Fire In Your Bones (Life Bridge). To schedule Glenn to speak or for more information, please contact