Editor’s Note: Following in the footsteps of The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, Jared Wilson writes from the perspective of a senior demon to his apprentice on how to oppose and confound Christians. This imaginative piece offers powerful insight into the subtle ways leaders might be led astray.
Dearest Grubnat, my poppet, my pigsnie,
The reports of your progress warm my blackened heart. When you were assigned to one of the Enemy’s ministers 10 years ago, his infernal Majesty and I knew you’d have a rough go of it. The zeal of one new to the pastorate can be a daunting challenge to even the most cunning of our comrades, but we also believed that time breeds all wounds and that your task would become easier the longer your patient remained. You now prosper from that sweet spot of pastoral fatigue and assimilation. The shine of newness is gone. And up pop the cracks in the ministerial armor.
There are many temptations common among the Enemy’s undershepherds, but one universal temptation of them arises from their flesh, and it is this: They want people to be pleased with them. Wanting to be liked is not a sin, really—to use the Enemy’s terminology—but it can be quickly turned to one at the hands of a spiritual disintegrator as shrewd as yourself. Some tacks you might consider:
Suggest to your client that he works for the people, not the Enemy. This will not be a hard sell as they are faces he sees every day. Remind him who pays his salary. The quicker you can get your patient to see himself as a professional, as an employee, the better.
Strike up with your fellow workers to send in to his office, voicemail, and email inbox parishioner after parishioner with demands, requests and philosophical banners to wave. Through them, propose hill after hill to die on, all save Golgotha.
Keep his head spinning. Even so-called “innocent” concerns can be proper distractions from Who your patient is ultimately beholden to if they offer plausible substitutes for the “first importance” of the Bad News. The slip into people-pleasing mode can be masked as subtly as a serpent slithering in the tall grass (no offense intended to his Majesty).
Help your patient to see all that he lacks. Stroke his discontent. The less satisfied your patient is with what the Enemy has done for him and all the Enemy has given him, the more alluring the validation, approval and praise of others will be. Empty him of his confidence by highlighting his failures so that, therefore, his head will be far more easily swelled with adulations and self-confidences. Then pop those like a pin to a balloon and start again. It is easy for a pastor to move to pride—it is his default setting—so this should not be too difficult for you.