A few weeks back I shared a few thoughts about the efforts in the church to produce “clique” churches. We say we’re reaching out to the “culture,” but I argued we’re doing nothing more than surrounding ourselves only with people just like me; and that’s not healthy.
This is the natural outgrowth of the whole “church shopping” mentality to begin with. The whole idea of looking around until we find the “right fit,” either where we fit in, or they fit us, or whatever. It’s a self-centered approach; the very opposite of the biblical model of looking to bring unity out of diversity, each one looking to use his gifts to serve, not to be served.
Well, recently a picked up a “repackaged” version of C. S. Lewis’ classic Screwtape Letters. It’s called Paved With Good Intentions: A Demon’s Roadmap to Your Soul. When I first read the publishers descriptions, I was lead to believe this was somehow a new collection of writings; a sort of “Further Adventures of Wormwood and Screwtape,” so to speak. It’s not; rather it's merely a re-organizing of the original material into a new format.
My disappointment aside, I’ve been enjoying reacquainting myself with this old story. If you’ve never read it (and let me just say “shame on you” if you haven’t), it purports to be a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew and junior tempter, Wormwood. It’s a series of instructions on how to tempt, irritate, frustrate and otherwise lead astray his assigned human charge; to keep him from the hands of The Enemy (God, of course).
What has astounded so many over the years is the very insightful look into the inner workings of the human heart and the very effective means through which our true enemy has sought to infiltrate and discourage the church.
What I found most interesting in light of my recent posting about the “Just Like Me” church and the idea of shopping to find the “right fit” is that this is the very advice that Screwtape gives for keeping a man from truly growing in Christ. Let me just give you his words:
Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.
The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction. In the second place, the search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.
Ouch. So, the best demonic advice Lewis could imagine was for folks to shop around until they found a church that “suits” them. To find a group that wasn’t built on unity of place in spite of differences, but rather built on similarity of likes; making it more of a club. Hmm… sound familiar to anyone.
A posthumous thanks to C. S. Lewis for helping me make my point.