Last night, our youth group took a Wednesday off from our weekly Small Groups to have a pool party and to examine just how Small Groups have been going throughout this year. This week I came across a lengthy quote on the Desiring God blog that I would like to share from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. It provided an interesting perspective on what Satan thinks about us being in Small Groups.
You would think that Satan would not want us to meet together to discuss how we should fight sin and grow closer to God, but if Small Groups have become something they should not be then Satan would love for us to still keep meeting.
Before I share the extended quote, consider the different threats to successful Small Group meetings:
- Distractions in front of you (cell phone that keeps lighting up with notifications, friends who want to “have a good time” by goofing around, life’s trials and burdens that you bring into group with you, etc.).
- Divisions within you (fear of sharing what is really going on in your heart, desire for approval of others, pride that manifests itself by trying to make yourself look better than you really are, etc.)
- Dark forces against you (the spiritual forces of evil–Satan and his fallen angel minions–who work tirelessly to oppose God’s plan of redemption, deceive mankind with many crafty lies, tempt teens with all kinds of evils, blind the minds of those would-be believers from seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, etc.)
Here is the extended quote which is a letter written from a senior demon, “Wormwood”, to his nephew, a junior demon, “Globdrop”. This is a kind of devilish discipleship in the dominion of darkness. Keep in mind that while it is fictional, it may help us imagine the very real craftiness of Satan and some of the most present threats to our Small Group gatherings:
My dear Globdrop,
I noticed in your last letter that you have been trying to separate the rodent from his little pack with whom he does “accountability.” Your reasoning, although sophomoric, tends toward rational thought. Men and women, walking together in that unbearable “light,” tend to be just beyond our dagger’s reach. Often an entire month’s work is undermined by the Enemy dragging the patients out of our shadows through the intervention of one of his fellow vermin.
But in your case, this would be an amateur mistake. Luckily you do not have an ordinary Tempter as your mentor. Even his little “band of brothers” can be used to our advantage. That which to this point has prevented habitual sin we shall now use to reinforce it. This, dear nephew, is delicious deceit! Let me explain.
Your patient, like most males, goes to an accountability group where the dominant struggle is lust. (If it were a group of the female sex, it would likely be anxiety.) What each means by confessing “lust” is largely unknown, but surely it involves some genre of pornography or sexual fantasy, if not outright illicit intercourse.
Now, if you have referred to the registry, you’ll know that, unlike his fellows, your patient alone makes real strides toward holiness (you have obviously failed to convince him that such sanctity is an absolute bore). But he is outnumbered, and this, my dear Globdrop, is the perfect petri dish to allow the bacteria to grow. Observe.
Although undetectable to you, the process of spreading the disease to your patient has already begun — vice does infect more rapidly than virtue cures. Through months of confession in his so-called accountability group, our patient has ever so slowly learned that struggling with this sin isn’t really that bad. Of course, no one has said it aloud, but what they never speak with words, they profess weekly with their lives. Every other week, when one by one they confess their inevitable “fall,” they coddle one another, because, as it is easy to deduce, each desires the same leniency when it comes time for him to share.
This is the maxim you must remember: Where everyone is guilty, no one is. No zeal for rebuking lust or anxiety or any other habitual sin can exist when the would-be rebuker indulges in it himself. If one man consistently shoots himself in the foot, disable him from exhorting his comrade to avoid the same injury! (If any has a flash of courage to love his brother above himself, bring the word hypocrite to his mind, and it should extinguish the resolve.) Keep the hug-fest going! Inevitably, this will wear on his defenses, and he will learn that toiling for self-control may be unnecessary after all.
So, encourage him to attend.
This group consists of scarecrows for target practice — of which we want your man to become. They are delicious men of the “maybe tomorrow” and “most definitely next week.” Nephew, do not fear these men. Despite what they believe to be their good intentions, they unwittingly work for us.
They actually operate by an unspoken pact not to pursue the Enemy (in real time and space) nor to take up arms in any actual battle. This invisible pact reveals itself whenever they use one of our favorite words: legalist.
Notice your man — there he sits. One after another the others confess their falls — same old, same old. As Job’s friends counsel each other, notice how your man sits as if castrated. He hears resolves and advice — none of it necessarily false — but he can’t quite discern why all of it reeks of such weakness and frailty.
Well, we know, don’t we? Generality! Few things provide comedic relief in this somber life more than general platitudes thrown around a room for accountability. “Read the Bible more.” “Don’t visit the girl.” “Pray without ceasing!” They stand in the heat of battle and cry, “Shoot your pistol!” “Aim your rifle!” “Win the battle!” Children playing with squirt guns talk this way; men at war do not.
Behold the brilliance: They cannot strategize specifics because of that word: legalism.
Your man grows silent and inactive because to take up his sword and actually fight back would awaken accusations of legalism. He cannot shoot back because legalism makes this a gun-free zone (at least for the humans). As the others amuse themselves, he cannot suggest they load their weapons with real bullets through particular instructions, because to use real artillery to fire at real enemies is, in their muddled minds, loathsome works-based Christianity.
Your task, then, is to continue to confuse them into thinking that sweating in the trenches, training for the warfare — indeed, fighting itself — is contrary to everything that the Enemy expects of them. Make them pacifists concerning the war for their souls. Let them say, “Peace, peace” to one another as we sharpen our spears and aim our darts.
Globdrop, it is imperative that you not allow any of them to suggest specifics, for this would lead to planning, and — in the worst case — to discipline.
Maintain this confusion, at all costs.
Let them pet each other: Read your Bible. Pray without ceasing. Don’t visit that girl. Never allow them to play the real soldier. “Read your Bible these next two weeks for at least forty minutes a day.” “Pray without ceasing, especially before work for twenty minutes and twenty minutes before bed.” “Don’t visit that girl whatsoever; don’t even go near the door of her house — we’ll ask you about it throughout the week.”
And if they ever do, cry, Legalism!
Your concerned but expectant Uncle,
No matter how great the distractions in front of us, the divisions within us, or the dark forces against us, JESUS CHRIST IS THE HOPE OF EVERY SMALL GROUP! When He leads your small group, nothing can hold your Small Group back from God-honoring, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled, grace-motivated growth!
Colossians 2:15 says that by Jesus’ death on the cross, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities [speaking of the spiritual forces of darkness] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Questions to ask yourself of your Small Group involvement this year. Get specific too:
- Did you see any spiritual growth this year?
- What was one of the most helpful SG meetings? Why that particular meeting?
- Did you come prepared to discuss the book, chapter, and subject assigned?
- Did your time in SG help you get further from sin and closer to God?
- Was this the only time of your week that you discussed spiritual things with others?
- Did you talk too much, thinking only of yourself (pride, boasting, etc.)?
- Did you not talk enough, thinking only of yourself (fear, worry, etc.)?
- How teachable were you? How eager to learn were you?
- Did you view yourself as a partner with your SG leader desiring to accomplish the same goals with your time?
- Did you keep your discussion and your confession on the surface to try and save face?
- Did you come up with specific action plans to live differently because of your SG time together?
- What is the one thing that you would do differently in SGs this coming year?