Remember Uncle Screwtape’s lengthy and insightful advice to his nephew Wormwood in the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (published 1942)? Senior demon Uncle Screwtape advises junior demon Nephew Wormwood on how to turn “the patient” (a Christian person) toward their “Father below” (Satan). Always the insightful author, Lewis cuts through much Christian mythology using this clever and playful approach, disarming many of our defenses. Were Uncle Screwtape advising us, disciples in congregations, rather than Nephew Wormwood regarding our congregation’s vitalization effort, he may encourage us with these seven strategies. Remember, his goal is to DERAIL congregational progress toward fulfilling our callings and being robust church together.
Relate to your church from a position of fear and anxiety.
The other side says, “love covers a multitude of sins.” Well, we are fond of saying, “Fear is the key to nearly everything.” Fear is so contagious, when you spew fear in your congregation you will help your church become a hesitant, overly-cautious, anxious, and defensive bunch…exactly at the time it needs to practice faith, courage, generosity, and boldness to revitalize. Spew your fear and anxiety randomly, to anyone who will give you the time of day. You will demoralize some, alienate others, and frustrate those who are working for renewal. Use any issue you can (social issues, Muslim growth in America, anger toward Millenials, demise of church culture, etc.) to sow fear. “Be afraid, be very, very afraid.” Make this statement your mantra, repeating it as often as possible. This will distract people from God’s power, focusing them on the giants in the land. Before you know it, your church’s revitalization effort will become paralyzed. This is what large doses of fear do – paralyze progress, so generously share your fear.
Embrace and internalize, deep in your soul, the delusion that church is all about you.
Your preferences, your convenience, your happiness and contentment…try to maintain the view that the church’s purpose is to cater to you. When worship leaders and teachers surface the idea that the church is one of God’s instruments meant to transform the world, including your self-centeredness, DO NOT LISTEN. Do not believe that stuff. Think of yourself as a consumer – you are there to get, not to give or be changed toward Christ-likeness. Clutch your consumer identity as vigorously as you can. It’s amazing how effective this strategy has been in North America, resulting in a steady stream of church shoppers. We are pleasantly surprised by this all the time, given how clear Jesus was in his call to discipleship.