The evil one seems to be ramping up his attacks on pastors and Churches today like never before. The gates of hell are really trying to prevail against the church in every locality and community of the world. Here Dr. Francis Bola Akin John identifies seven ways the enemy does this:
PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS IN LOCALITIES
Recently, a pastor told me the story of how his 200-member church closed down within one year in a community. Thieves broke into the church and stole the ringing bell and prayer cloth of the pastor. And pronto, people stopped coming to the church the next Sunday. That is spiritual warfare by hosts of darkness in that locality. Forces of darkness in communities are arrayed against any church that brings the light of the gospel to the people. And they are destroying churches due principally to the ignorance of pastors concerning spiritual warfare.
THE LEADERS AND PASTORS’ FAMILY
The Christian family is under attack today because, if the evil one can create havoc in their family, then he can undermine the work of Christ on earth. Some church members have an unreasonable expectations of the Pastor or Church Leader’s family.
One example is that they expect their children to be close to perfect. When they see their children act up in ways contrary to the way that they expect them to act, they believe that the Pastor and his wife are doing a poor job in raising them.
The thing is that children are going to act like children. We cannot expect the Pastor or the Church Leader’s children to be little angels because they are still children. The children of Pastors have unfair expectations being put on them. Many of the congregants falsely believe this when they read 1st Timothy 3:4 which says “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.”
The reason is that “A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well” _(1 Timothy 3:12)_ and that “if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church” (1 Timothy 3:5)?
Yes, they should be in submission but they are also going to still be children, and no matter what a parent does they are still in the process of growing in maturity. Then there are unreasonable expectations about the Pastor or Church Leader’s wife. She is just as much a part of the ministry as her husband is but when they are over-critical of her by putting her under a magnifying glass, she feels like she is always under scrutiny.
There may be nothing more destructive to a church than division and when the congregation starts to divide over non-essential issues then the Pastor or the Church Leaders can end up being stuck in the middle of it. I heard of one large church a few years ago that actually divided over the color of the carpet and when the Pastor tried to heal the rift, both sides seemed to feel that he was siding with the others.
What ended up happening was that half the church left to begin a new church and the Church Leaders took the blame. This all started at a board meeting when the members couldn’t agree on what the color of the new carpet should be. Sometimes the church leaders and the pastoral staff divide over things that are non-essential like how a children’s ministry should be run, what the goals should be, and who should be over the ministry. If the enemy can create a division or rift between the members and the Church Leaders and the Pastor, he can destroy the integrity of the leadership, and the church will suffer as a whole.
When Church Leaders and Pastors do not delegate, they begin to be overburdened by the load. I had to learn this the hard way. It’s just too easy for the Pastor or Church Leaders to see everything that needs to be done at a church and then decide to just do it all themselves when volunteers are often more than willing to help. The church depends on volunteers, who are in reality unpaid staff, to do the things that no one or two people could ever possibly do. Perhaps it’s pride, the cause of Satan’s fall, that seems to necessitate the need for Church Leaders to handle everything themselves.
When burnout comes, and it will come under these conditions, then those things that are the priorities of the church will suffer and the church leadership will suffer. When the church leadership gets overburdened, then the church as a whole begins to feel it. Satan loves it when there is so much business that the real purpose of the church, the kingdom-building, is left undone by the distraction of the many tasks that only a few are handling.
GOSSIP AND RUMORS
Next to church division, gossip and the spreading of false rumors might be the biggest thing that destroys the integrity of the church leadership. If people are whispering behind the backs of Church Leaders then the effectiveness of their ministry can be destroyed. I remember hearing about a new Pastor that was hired and he went to visit a potential member who lived upstairs next to a bar in an upstairs apartment.
One of the church members saw the new Pastor going into what she thought was the bar and thought that was scandalous. When she mentioned this to another church member, rumors started flowing throughout the church that the new Pastor might have a problem with alcohol. The fact is that the door that lead up to the apartment of the potential member was adjacent to the bar and wasn’t actually the entrance to the bar. What the church member saw and what was reality was not the same thing. When the rumor somehow got back to the new Pastor, he was more surprised than anyone.
He addressed this at the pulpit the next Sunday and started preaching about gossip and rumors and how these destroy a person’s reputation and hurts the witness of the church in the community. The enemy loves to have us spread lies and false witnesses because there is almost nothing more destructive to a Pastor or a Church Leader than to hear about something that seems contrary to their expectations. Gossiping is almost the same as character assassination or slandering a person’s good name when most of the time it turns out to be false.
This may be one of the enemy’s most effective weapons because when discouragement hits, it takes away the vitality and purpose of the Pastor and church leadership. It is so easy to become discouraged when church membership begins to shrink or when those who have certain positions in the church begin to lose interest in it. Every one of us faces discouragement from time to time and so this is why it is so important to be the BARNABAS in the church.
Here’s what I mean. Barnabas was an encourager and gave people the benefit of the doubt. When no one else trusted Saul after his conversion it was Barnabas that spoke up for him. When Sanballat kept attacking and trying to discourage the workers who were trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah, he knew where to hit them.
He wanted them to focus on just how much work there was to do and how the threat of the workers being attacked and killed would discourage the workers from completing the work. It got so bad that Judah said, ‘The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall’” _(Nehemiah 4:10)._ Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian used lies, rumors, threats, and fear to try and discourage the workers and their leaders from finishing the rebuilding of the walls. It almost worked but Nehemiah kept his focus on completing the task and didn’t allow circumstances to discourage him or the workers. If the enemy can discourage the Pastor and Church Leaders then he can weaken the work of the Lord or make it stop altogether.
The event kills off any church gradually by corrupting and compromising the pulpit. Any pulpit that no longer declares the undiluted word of God without fear is highly compromised and it will kill the life of God in the pew. God will only work and confirm His word, not the ideas and opinions of men, no matter how highly placed or ordained they are. Satan kills churches and stopped Holy Spirit from working by removing the true word of God from the pulpits. Most pulpits of today glories in Fun, Feasting, and Fashions. Most churches of today are n cl deep in Celebrations, Ceremonies, and Collections. No wonder there is so much nominalism and secularism gaining upper hand in modern churches.
If you are a Pastor or a Church Leader or even if you are a church member, know that you and the church are under spiritual attacks from the enemy. The more successful a church’s ministry is, the more likely it’ll be under the enemy’s attack.
Satan doesn’t bother with churches that are simply going through the motion, churches that are not busy doing kingdom-work, churches that are not evangelizing, and churches that are not discipling members to grow in holiness.
He’ll use church division, gossip and rumors, burnout, discouragement, and trying to create havoc in Church Leader’s families to bring down a church. He normally starts at the top… with the Pastors and Church Leaders. He reasons that if he can destroy or make the leadership ineffective, then his work is done.
Dr. Akin-John is the president of the International Church Growth Insitute