This is What Enables Evil to Hide in Our Churches

This post is difficult for me to write because I have lived it so many, many times. The subject gets my blood pressure, dander, ire and anger “up” big time. I hate this stuff. It is soooo prevalent in our churches and there is no excuse for it. This time, as is so common, it comes from a pastor.

Now, I do not know Pastor Brian G. Najapfour, pastor of Dutton United Reformed Church in Michigan. I did however read his recent article in The Outlook magazine entitled “Reflections from My 16 Years of Experience as a Pastor.” I am not trying to do him harm here, but I am attempting to keep his words from doing harm to others.

First of all, let me say that 16 years is not very long. I have been a pastor now for 38 years and it seems like it has only been in the last six or so that I really started to grasp real wisdom, especially wisdom about wickedness parading in the church in a Christian disguise. Perhaps in another 20 years Pastor Najapfour will see the nature and tactics of evil more clearly. I hope so.

But listen now to what he wrote in this part of his article:

In the ministry you will encounter someone who will dislike you for no good reason. And that person can be one of your church leaders. I remember talking to a fellow pastor of another congregation. He told me that one of his elders just doesn’t like him and he did not know why. This elder treats him unfairly and negatively. When dealing with people like this elder, seek by God’s grace to always take the high road. Don’t pay these people back with evil for the evil they do to you (1 Pet 3:9). Instead, pray for them and show more the love of Christ to them.

Why does this kind of thing get me so riled? Because for years and years as a pastor I was told this stuff by people who were supposedly eminent holy wise ones in Christendom. I read it in their books. I heard them say it in sermons. Some of them told me these things in person. And all the while it kept me in bondage to evil.

There is no excuse for a minister of the gospel to teach such things. Why? Because God’s Word is so very, very clear and what Pastor Najapfour says is absolutely contrary to Scripture. What he is doing is teaching as Scripture what is really the tradition of man. Let me bullet-point what he is saying:

  • A Christian can dislike another Christian for no good reason
  • Such a Christian can even be a church elder
  • A Christian can treat another Christian unfairly and negatively
  • A Christian can do evil to another Christian
  • And a Christian can do these things habitually, in an ongoing pattern, with no repentance
  • The Lord’s command to us is to pray for such a person and show them the love of Christ

Now, what does God’s Word really have to say on this? Here you go:

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11)

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:9-10)

See it? There is nothing unclear about God’s Word and there is everything unclear about man’s traditions parading as Scripture. What this pastor is saying is exactly opposite of what the Apostle John writes here. The result? An evil man parading as a Christian is allowed to remain in church leadership, continuing in his abusive ways for his own glory as he lusts for power and control. How should he be dealt with according to Scripture? The Apostle John has the answer to that question to, in the second paragraph of this passage:

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. (3 John 1:5-11 NIV) 

Now, what do these words of Pastor Najapfour accomplish in regard to an abuse victim and her abuser in a local church? Most all of you know the answer because you have lived it. The abuser is going to be most certainly enabled, allowed to go right on parading as a Christian, his salvation never, ever challenged and in fact he is not even going to be confronted. His victim? Well, Pastor Najapfour gives the same common and terrible counsel to her ‘ “suck it up, be a better Christian yourself, love him more and pray for him.”

Do you see why what he has written makes me so angry? I lived it. For decades I lived it as a pastor in three local churches. I was in bondage to this very same false teaching until ultimately, after over 25 years in that condition, the Lord turned the lights on for me. I saw these kinds of people Najapfour tells us we must love, pray for, and be sooooo patient with, for what they truly are. Wolves in wool. Children of the devil parading as sons of righteousness. And we are to deal with them as such, not as Christian brethren who sometimes sin.

That is Christ’s truth. And it really does set us free.

Let’s Talk More About Background Checks

1Jn 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

There is nothing “Christian” or “loving” about naively welcoming a person in among Christ’s flock, knowing nothing more about them than what they tell you. And yet this is the common practice in the local churches. Some years ago, for example, a young couple I know visited a church and subsequently continued to attend it. Within just a very short time, they were asked to take a turn on a regular basis in the church nursery. That church really knew nothing about them at all. I knew another man who also began attending another local church and in just two months he was asked to be a deacon!

Now, I want to ask you – what is Christlike and “loving” about this? About putting people who we don’t really know at all into such positions of trust? Of entrusting them even with our children? And yet when I tell people that in our church we do not receive people into formal membership until they have been with us for a year, and that we perform background checks – particularly if a person is going to be working in some capacity with children – when I tell people this, they recoil! They can’t believe it. Furthermore, we contact the church or churches that a person has attended before coming to our church. And guess what? Same reaction. Surprise. Amazement. And accusations of being “unloving” because we don’t just take the person’s word for it, superstitiously maintaining that Christian love means some kind of spiritual free-for-all.

Our old friend Matthew Henry says this about the scripture quoted above:

God has given of his Spirit in these latter ages of the world, but not to all who profess to come furnished therewith; to the disciples is allowed a judgment of discretion, in reference to the spirits that would be believed and trusted in the affairs of religion.

You all know enough about the wicked, about sociopaths and psychopaths and narcissists, to know that they are masters of disguise. I have piles of letters and emails from victims of this kind telling about how their abuser is a chief figure in a local church, regarded as an eminently godly saint, a quoter of masses of Bible verses, holding various leadership positions in the church, and so on. And yet they are servants of the devil.

Now, I have had people object to any kind of background checks being done. They say, for instance, that such an investigation is not going to do any good. It won’t expose the wicked consistently because not all of these people have ever been arrested. I know that. But what I also know is by merely making it known that we will perform a background check on anyone who comes to our church and intends to join us, weeds out many evil people. We never have to do the check because they leave.

But more than an official background check through one of the many online services, there is the exercise of common sense in contacting the previous church or churches a person has attended. Now, once again, I know full well that taking this step will not always provide truthful information. In fact, I have found that most pastors will lie to me about the person. They will give a glowing report and we find out later after going through much grief caused by the person, that this pastoral recommendation was false. But once again, merely telling a person that we will contact their previous church serves a purpose. NOTE: I am also wise to the fact that a pastor or church may give a negative report regarding an abuse victim who they themselves have further abused and oppressed or even put out of their church. But such a report will tell me that the victim’s account of what happened to him/her is true.

Think about this some more. Do you realize that local churches will very often appoint a man, for example, to the office of elder, to a position of overseeing and teaching the church, without ever looking into that person’s background! They will not even contact the pastor of the person’s former church. Is it really then any wonder that predators just love churches as their chosen arena for evil?

Rev 2:2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.

Rom 16:18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Pro 14:15 The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

Most churches, if they even go this far, assume that the only thing they need to examine is a person’s statement of doctrine. They will ask a potential member, for instance, if they accept the doctrinal statement of the church and if the person affirms that they do, well then case closed – the person has been examined and into the flock he or she comes. Even common sense however tells us that even the devil himself could swear that he believes in Christ! He knows Christ is the Son of God. He knows God is a Trinity. He knows what the gospel is. And yet he is the devil! Therefore, if we are wise –

Mat 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (16) You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (17) So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (18) A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Understand? This “fruit” is not just what they claim with their mouth. No, it is the fruit of their life. Of their person. Of the heart of who they really are. Outwardly – a sheep. But inwardly are ravenous wolves. In other words, we are to examine the very heart of who a person is and we are able to do so by looking at what their life has been producing. Is it the fruit of the Spirit? Or the deeds of the flesh? And you are never going to get to the heart of the matter by merely taking a person’s word for it or looking at the whitewashed tomb exterior they wear. You must be wise about evil You must know about how the enemy’s agents operate and what are the telltale signs of wickedness. Sometimes you can spot the facade quickly. Other times it can take much longer.

1Ti 5:22-25 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. (23) (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) (24) The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. (25) So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

I’m not sure that drinking a little wine enables us to better spot evil! But you see Paul’s main point here – if we naively and foolishly and carelessly welcome people among us and even appoint them to church offices or other positions, and they are a wolf in disguise, then we share in their sins. We contribute to the abuse of the flock. And this discernment takes time.

When I was a police officer and a new person came in among us, in uniform just like ours, fresh out of the academy, he/she was not immediately embraced and trusted. You had to prove yourself. We had to see if this person was someone we could trust. Who would stand with us against lawbreakers. Who showed a willingness to learn. But when I became a pastor, I came into a setting where all such caution was rejected. “Everyone Welcome Here” is the sign most churches post. I suppose that means they would welcome the devil himself?!

Act 15:22-23 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, (23) with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.

1Co 16:3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.

2Th 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.

See it? Letters. References. And even those had to be regarded with caution because some deceivers would forge Paul’s signature!!

We have a duty before the Lord to be very careful and diligent in regard to watching over His church. And one chief responsibility is that of guarding against evildoers who would creep in and abuse the sheep. Any so-called shepherd in a local church who lazily and with cowardice exercises the “why can’t we all just love one another and get along” philosophy is going to give an account one day to the Chief Shepherd.

“I will never leave you” – A Certain Promise from the Lord

Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV  Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (6)  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

The wicked leave and forsake. They abandon. Oh, they stick around physically way too long, but only to destroy. They forsake – which means to abandon and desert. They do it everyday, beginning with their marriage vows. Those of you who have been victims of a domestic abuser know this all too well. Abusers forsake their victim economically, emotionally, physically, relationally – really in every way.

Joshua 1:5 ESV  No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Isaiah 43:2 ESV  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

And of course as quoted above,

Hebrews 13:5b ESV  …for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Now, what I find interesting in this Hebrews passage is that immediately following this promise to never forsake us is this:

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