The enemy within the gates
Do you have an enemy? Hopefully, you don’t have a person for one. As believers, we know that our enemy is the devil. The devil through his shenanigans actively opposes and is hostile to Christians. Through false religions and contrary ideologies, the enemy has mobilized people to stand against believers. Yet it is through the same that missionaries have been able to identify those who need to be brought into the fold. So, over the years, books have been written, studies commissioned and cultures studied - all in any effort to understand how the enemy has ensnared people. But isn’t it easier to identify and deal with the enemy outside the gates than the enemy within the gates?
We (OM in Zimbabwe) are often invited to go and teach in churches. In calling us, pastors often remark “I was told of you by my friend Pastor...” continue with “… he said that I could trust you...” and finish by saying, “as you know these days you can't afford to give just anyone a mic and a pulpit!"
These assertions show that the agents of the enemy of Christianity are not only operating in contrary ideologies and false religions, but are also prowling from the pulpit. That is not exactly breaking news – false teachers have been around since the beginning – but for missionaries, there is something thoroughly disturbing and very emotional about false teachers. Whereas in past times many misled by twisting the teachings of the Bible, modern day false teachers are increasingly claiming a deity intending to rise above and beyond the Bible. I was recently shocked to hear one charismatic 'prophet' disclose that he had moved away from the theological system to follow what God reveals and instructs him to do. Despite nullifying the Bible, they still carry it around seeking credence as they woo people unto themselves. Even more disturbing for missionaries is that false prophets, ‘fish from the pond’ cause mayhem and confusion in the fold.
Missionaries are the people who give their all going against all manner of frontiers to see the Gospel spread. They labour for years and sometimes never see the physical result of their efforts. The fortunate ones may see one or two conversions but only for the same number to drift away from the narrow road.
Some will argue that discernment is a requirement and responsibility of every Christian because failure to distinguish between truth and error leaves us subject to all manner of false teaching. Unfortunately, discernment is an area where 'baby' Christians slip up. With Bible poverty, prevalent in Africa and elsewhere, new believers and even seasoned ones cannot withstand heresy and false teaching and thus end up following whatever appeals better to them as long as the name 'Jesus' is mentioned. In short, not all who comes to faith mature at once and baby Christians are not armed to take a decidedly biblical stand against the onslaught of unbiblical thinking and attitudes that face them.
Thus, the onslaught by false teachers is not one to be taken lightly. The call to discipleship has never been more urgent on a continent where Christianity is said to be “a mile wide and yet an inch deep”.
For the church to overcome the challenge of false prophets, the church should not be satisfied with counting the number of alter calls but act like a mother who gives birth in the wild - defending, feeding and protecting her young. Otherwise the enemy we face operates from within our gates and pits brother against brother.