In recent months, I have found myself reflecting on twenty years of ministry in the church. The reflection has inspired me to ponder future years of ministry, if God should sustain me in it. The lessons he continues to teach me are, I believe, not only for pastors and those engaged in vocational ministry, but for all Christians. It is my hope to offer some of these lessons and cautions in a way that is similar to how C.S. Lewis offered his concerns in The Screwtape Letters.
Lewis wrote through the lens of the fictitious Uncle Screwtape, a senior demon who mentored his nephew, Wormwood, in order to tempt and destroy Wormwood’s Christian patient. While we can rest assured that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) — he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4) — we also know that our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). So, I offer the following thoughts to the end that you would not be outwitted by Satan, or be ignorant of his schemes, as you fix your eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1).
My Dear Wormwood
First, encourage your patient to make a name for himself and build his own kingdom. Inspire him to believe his own press — fondle every good thing he hears about himself and his ministry, especially flattery. It shouldn’t be too hard, since we have almost won the battle on this front. It is almost universally accepted now that Christians, and especially pastors, should try to make a name for themselves, build their own kingdoms, and cultivate cult-like followings — always commending their own books and ministry activities, praising themselves, and getting others to do so as well. In sum, convince your patient that our Enemy didn’t really mean what it seems when he said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1).