I was probably only eight-years-old but I was still old enough to know that something wasn’t right. It was more than not right. It was demonic. Satanic. And it was happening in the middle of my living room.
It was a party. A Sunday School party. The kids were several years older than me. One of them was laying in the middle of the floor. The rest were sitting around her, each with two fingers under her body. They were chanting.
“Light as a feather. Stiff as a board.”
I don’t remember how the rest went. But they were trying to levitate this girl off of the ground. Did I mention that this was a Sunday School party? Who said Christians don’t know how to have a party?
Later, I heard stories about standing in front of a mirror with something like a candle in one hand and, I don’t know, the wool from a virgin lamb, in the other hand. If you said some other chant three times while listening to an AC/DC record backwards you would see an image standing behind you. A scary image. But really, at that point, isn’t any image scary?
I was always too scared to try it. Sometimes fear can be a good thing.
As I grew older I got into horror movies. With each one I saw, I wanted to be scared out of my mind. But it never happened. Not because I was a really tough kid with nerves of steel. The movies just never delivered. A guy from your dreams with knives for fingers just didn’t seem realistic. Well, unless he could cut your hair.
Horror movies have changed. People still go to see them wanting to be scared. But instead of a villain in a hockey mask, most of today’s horror movies seem to focus on the supernatural. The Satanic. When I talk to people about their reaction to seeing those films, I find out that they respond the same way that I did all of those years ago. The movies never deliver. But maybe the next one will be really scary. And the vicious cycle continues.
We are fascinated with fear. To go a step further, we are fascinated with the supernatural. The Satanic. And as things progress, it takes more to scare us. Freddy and Jason just don’t do it for us anymore. We want to see the devil.
But, if you really want to see the devil, there’s a much more proven way. Just spend some time at a church that takes the Bible seriously.
Make no mistake, if your church is making any attempt to raise up disciples, demons are among you. They are present in your sanctuary on Sunday mornings. But this isn’t scary. Christ has already guaranteed victory for his church and equipped us in whatever daily attacks we face from our Enemy (Ephesians 6:10-20).
I’m not an expert. I’ve only been in ministry for around 15 years. Only five of those have been as a senior pastor. And I’m not one to see a demon behind every bush. If your car breaks down on the way to church, call a mechanic. Don’t call me to come and sprinkle something on it while rebuking the demon of busted fuel pumps.
But in the time that I’ve spent working in churches I have seen the demonic. Sometimes, it has been very dramatic. Like the completely rational person who feels a presence in the house or the person that violently looses all bodily control in the middle of a gospel presentation or the small child that can’t quit thinking about suicide and takes heavy doses of medication just to go to sleep at night.
You’ve seen it too. Everyone has. But the problem is that we never want to admit that a demon has something to do with any of this. We’d rather call it a medical or psychological condition. Sometimes that’s the case. But sometimes there’s more to it. Like the boy who kept having convulsions and falling into deep water and fire pits. When Jesus met that boy, he didn’t give him a psychological evaluation. He cast out the demon that was living inside of him (Mark 9:14-29).
But Satanic forces aren’t always working that way. In fact, sometimes I wonder if they would rather not be so visible. If maybe they prefer to be more subtle in their attacks. Perhaps by allowing gossip or divisiveness to take root in a church. You can be sure that whenever the Spirit is really working and people are getting saved and growing, from out of nowhere, somebody is going to complain, and I mean loud, about the chairs in the church gym being set up wrong.
Demons also like to show up in the teachings of a church.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. 1 Timothy 4:1 (ESV)
If the Enemy can’t destroy a church through gossip, or strange noises coming from the basement, all is not lost for him. There are a lot of churches that he has no problem with. Churches that he would hate to see close down. Churches where a message of sin, repentance and faith is replaced by platitudes about life goals or no cost salvation for all.
Churches where he has already won the battle.
Typically, at churches like that, everything is peaceful. There are no strange distractions during services. No gossip or divisiveness to deal with.
And no Satan.
After all, why would the Enemy bother messing with a church that is working to promote his agenda? He’d just rather leave it alone.
And that’s really scary.