For more than 2,000 years the church has survived wars, persecution, heresies, tyrants, charlatans, false prophets, swindlers and divisive rebels. Satan has attacked the church from outside and infiltrated it from within, yet Christianity is growing faster in some parts of the world than at any time in human history.
But that doesn’t mean the devil is backing off. He is a relentless enemy, and we must constantly be aware of his schemes. When the devil attacks, he normally uses human agents to carry out his work. That is why church leaders are called to protect God’s people from those who might hijack our mission.
In all my years of ministry I’ve noticed that the devil’s tricks are actually the same no matter where I go. He uses a familiar cast of characters to sow discord in the church, to distract us from our mission and to veer us off course. If these people are busy in your church, they must be confronted. Never allow these six people to get their hands on the steering wheel:
1. The financial controller. Every church needs the wise counsel of older saints, including those who have business experience. But sometimes when spiritually immature people are put in such positions, they can develop a sense of ownership or entitlement. If this is not checked, they begin to use their money to buy influence. This was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5—and their severe punishment made it clear that God doesn’t like it when people try to control His church with their money.
James 2:1-7 warns church leaders not to seat rich people on the front row of the church. Yet in many congregations, wealthy members have bribed their way into a place of favor so they can make decisions. Weak pastors won’t challenge this behavior because they fear offending big donors.
2. The self-appointed prophet. We should earnestly desire the gift of prophecy in our churches. But the apostle Paul also warned the Colossians about super-spiritual people who claim to always know what God is saying to the leadership (Col. 2:18-23).
The difference between true prophets and self-appointed ones is their attitude. Legitimate prophets are loving, servant-hearted and submitted to godly authority. Dangerous prophets are those who can’t be corrected. They are spiritually proud, they tend to be loners and they leave a trail of damaged relationships in their wake. Never allow someone like this to be in a leadership position.