If I Were the Devil...
I remember hearing Paul Harvey present an audio essay entitled, "If
I Were the Devil." It was fantastic. Never to compete with such a legend, I'd still like to take a shot at my own version of this--in the context of the modern church...
If I were the Devil:
* I'd convince people that church REALLY was all about them. I'd start by having them choose the church like they'd choose a restaurant--they'd pick the atmosphere and ministries that suited their personal preferences. Then, I'd create a focus on having their "needs" met. They'd only think about their own salvation and personal comfort--totally forgetting about Jesus' command to sacrifice or to "seek and save the lost." The Great Commission of Matthew 28 would become the "Great Omission" of modern "Churchianity."
* I'd divide them. Some would become "convinced" that they had understanding or revelation about the church being too cold or too showy--striving for perfection. I'd have them preach against performance and presentation. The other half would begin to believe that the church is sloppy or too casual. I'd broadcast thoughts of doubt about the quality of the music, the messages, and/or the ministries. Eventually, the two sides would turn on one another. At that point, I'd make popcorn and watch the fireworks with glee!
* I'd develop a hatred and rebellious spirit against their leaders. I'd constantly point-out their flaws or foibles. I'd tell them that their pastors don't love them and they're only in it for the _________ (fill-in the blank with your favorite choice: money, recognition, power, whatever). I'd convince them that they didn't need to listen to or apply what the pastors preached.
* I'd make sure they ignored Bible reading, prayer, and other disciplines of the faith. After all, if they read scripture, they'd see through my attacks and I'd be sunk! I'd generate pride in them--they'd think they "know it all" and that their leaders are ignorant or ill-informed.
* I'd teach them to gossip. I don't really care WHAT they gossip about, just that they tear each other apart verbally as much as possible. Oh, and I'd make sure visitors and prospective members heard this too. Hopefully, it would scare them away!
* I'd personally create problems and mistakes but make sure they blamed each other for them. Technical glitches, building problems, outside interference from the government, whatever! I'd generate these and make sure they were convinced that the problems came from within the flock. Nothing would thrill me more than seeing sheep eat other sheep.
* If I were the Devil, I'd convince the sheep to scatter--running away to find better pastures, better pastors, and better places to satisfy their cravings. Never would I encourage them to stay put and try to work out their issues or make their current church a better place. I'd try to remove Matt. 18:15-19 from their Bibles. I'd find it much easier to pick-off and devour individual sheep as they wandered around looking for another flock. And, even for those I couldn't capture, I'd make sure that no individual church body would become powerful or significant in its community. They'd all be weak, struggling little fiefdoms--unable to accomplish God's purposes wherever they gathered. The world would see them as irrelevant little gaggles of hypocrites--harmless, and only mildly annoying.
I'm not Him...but I understand his methods (see I Peter 5:8 and Eph 6:11). I also know his timing. He strikes hardest when he sees any given church body as a potential threat--having the right message in the right place at the right time. Actually, when these things "pop-up," it's kind of a back-handed complement. The key is to recognize them and fight back!
Along those lines, perhaps the best thing we can do is to take just the opposite approach to each of the tactics above when the Devil DOES strike...
I will...will you?
To that end,