Maybe church has become too inviting

Bear with me, I’m just thinking out loud here.

Though I am generally a rational person, there are many instances in which I rely on my experience and feelings/intuition. If you were to classify my personality, it would fall into the stylized category of INTJ, or Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging, and the description(s) is fairly accurate: I think things through a great deal, but I also trust myself and am pretty self-confident. Part of this intuition, particularly in the realm of theology, comes from the spiritual gift of discernment that God has given me, by which I can discern both the correctness of a teaching and the difference between spirits. In very brief laymen’s terms, I can tell the difference between something from God, something from humanity, and something from Satan.

I can likewise see and interact with angels and devils, though occurrences are rare. And whether it’s due to my past experience or my ineptness, I tend to meet devils with far more regularity than I encounter angels. ((As an interesting sidenote, I generally find devils to be alone and angels to be in crowds, though there are always exceptions. Not sure why this is, though I could hazard some guesses.)) I recently encountered a devil in a rather unexpected place, however: a traditional, Sunday morning church service.

The sermon that morning happened to be on spiritual warfare, a subject not often preached, and I was surprised to sense the devil in the congregation. They aren’t, as you might imagine, visible to the naked eye, but this one was quite bold. It was clearly present in the sanctuary with no fear of remonstration or attack, subtly working its ways among the attendants. As the minister stated that many people in the congregation probably didn’t even believe in devils despite the stories of them in the Bible, I heard it whispering to people, strengthening their disbelief. “Devils, pah… we don’t hold with that nonsense. I’ve never seen one, and neither has anyone else. If there’s a Devil, it’s Man and War, etc. It’s all just metaphor. We don’t have to deal with that anymore.”

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that the greatest victory of Satan was convincing people that he doesn’t exist.

The worst part was when I confronted the devil, asking what it was doing there.

“I was invited,” it replied with a sardonic grin. The truly frustrating part is that this is the second time I’ve received this response in a church setting from a devil.

At any rate, it made me wonder if our Protestant churches haven’t become too inviting. In our bid to be seeker sensitive, to welcome everyone regardless of creed, and to ask relatively few questions or make any demands of parishioners, we often invite in those we would do better to keep outside. I’m not saying we should bar our doors from unbelievers, the poor, or most any individual–since this sort of argument has been used to rationalize blocking all sorts of people from church in the past, I want to make it clear that I advocate no such policy–but I wonder if we aren’t harming ourselves with our open-door policies.

I don’t have a clear solution, but my thoughts as inspired by this experience are as follows: maybe the Catholic Church had some decent reasons for requiring everyone to subscribe to the same core beliefs, to go through classes and professions of faith, and to undergo some testing before being admitted to the church; for excluding people from certain practices at the church before undertaking the sarcraments and such; and maybe our (by which I mean mainstream Protestants) disbelief and avoidance of all things spiritual, including the giftings of God and spiritual warfare, are leaving us vulnerable to Satan. If I had gone to the senior pastor of that church and shared my concern about devils being present in the sanctuary, I am fairly confident he would have been very kind, accepting, and patronizing. He might have let me consecrate the building. I doubt he would have really believed or done anything himself about the matter.

It is the flock that is hurt by this, so I feel like we should be doing a better job to protect them. We, by which I mean mainstream Protestantism as I have encountered it, are not doing a good job training our parishioners for spiritual warfare, and I certainly haven’t seen the leadership of the Protestant churches training themselves to protect the parishioners on their behalf. I don’t know where the Catholic Church stands on this sort of thing anymore, but I operate under the assumption that they’re more active about it than Protestant churches as a general rule.

I’m not about to become Catholic, but I again find myself thinking: they’ve been around for many centuries longer than Protestant churches, so maybe we should be taking some lessons from them on some matters? ((In addition, I’ve been learning some things about Judaism and their interpretations of the Hebrew Bible that answer a lot of questions Protestants ask, yet for some reasons these teachings haven’t made their way into Sunday morning sermons.)) I don’t know where the line should be drawn, or how, but I think we should at least be more aware that there’s a friggin’ war going on. If you duck your head in the sand, all you do is provide an easy, non-moving target.

5 thoughts on “Maybe church has become too inviting

  1. Hooboy, what a topic and I’m glad you touched on it.

    Personally, I don’t think the church is harmed by its open door policy as much as a lack of spiritual discernment by their pastoral and church leadership, and many of its members.

    I remember one conversation I had with my dad as a teenager asking him why so much spiritual warfare went on in our church, he said “the devil comes to church too.” I asked him, “Who invited him in?”

    Now here’s the kicker: Jesus promised us His spiritual authority when casting out devils in His name (and that’s the only way it can be done). Some come out only by prayer and fasting, and others take a corporate prayer effort to break (strongholds).

    The down and dirty of this is simply too many of our churches nowadays are scared to even bring up the topic of demonic activity and spiritual warfare, when in fact it could be happening right in front of them at that very moment. The battlefield of the mind is the most important war we fight spiritually…you were spot on when you said that if the devil convinces us he’s not real, he has won.

    I will provide a personal example here and it has to do with the church I currently attend…I’ll keep it brief:

    In November I was given a dream from the Lord. In the dream, I drove through my hometown in Washington state up to my home church. As I drove, I noticed lights off everywhere in the city and every house had been looted or broken into. I was stopped by a man who looked like he had not showered in awhile, and he threatened my life. I got out of my car and ran to my old church, with the guy right on my heels — but he never touched me. As I reached my old church, I was greeted by the Pastor and realized the guy had not crossed the fence delineating the church’s property. The Pastor went on to tell me that the man was the cause of all the spiritual problems plaguing the community around the church, and to keep on guard because he was going to enter sooner or later.

    The real-life fulfillment of this dream happened in March as we gathered at Crimson House for a Wednesday night family ministry night. We serve a meal at 6…lo and behold, the same exact man in my dream walks through the door. He started sharing some pretty whack theology with a few of our leadership and we refuted it many times…this also occurred as he joined the young adult class that evening. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when this guy joined our prayer meeting and flat out said “we don’t need to ask anything of God because he’s already given it to us, why are you guys praying?” Bam…there’s the spiritual confusion the devil brings into church.

    Making a long story short, we dealt with it accordingly but it’s a prime example of the pitfalls of your post. In an attempt to be inviting to the community, we let our guard down once and it opened the door for some gnarly “baggage” if you will to come on through.

    Sorry I rambled but I hope this provided some good perspective!

    1. When you say “accordingly,” what do you mean? How do you deal with people like this?

      It’s hard, emotionally and spiritually, to kick someone out of a church, but I have trouble seeing any other way sometimes…

  2. I believe the way they did it was to give the man more than one chance to stick around after our Pastor counseled him away from everyone, telling him he was upsetting everyone and his theology didn’t line up with the churches.

    He continued to instigate and Pastor held another private meeting with him, along with our worship leader, and told him he would not be welcomed back. That was the end of it.

    I think it was good judgment, the guy was given chances to stop antagonizing but when he finally would not, our Pastor did what is Biblically correct and protected the rest of the flock.

  3. I don’t necessarily agree with your interpretation of angels and devils in scripture, however, I do think we need to remember that the door opens wide, but it is a narrow door.

    1. I didn’t mention scripture… what interpretation did you perceive?

      The above is a story of an experience, not an interpretation of a reading.

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