Could Satan be using even your own experience in a campus ministry or church against you? 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us to “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” In this second edition of Screwtape Letters for College Students, we see one of the devil’s most common ploys to pull us away from God. If you are new to this series, please read the introduction and first letter here.
You pathetic excuse for a tempter! Sure, you led Benjamin straight into the distraction of over-commitment and academic idolatry, but in the process, he ended up getting somewhat involved with a campus group of the Enemy’s people. What a foolish blunderer you are! You would be hopeless without me as your guide. But even this stupidity of yours can still be used for your target’s demise. Now, you must give him every reason to distance himself from this campus “ministry.”
Here’s the ploy: encourage in him insurmountable expectations of what this group should be like. Make his idealism so great that the group could never possibly live up. Above all: never let him question these expectations!
Start by manipulating his expectations of the other students in the group, because he feels desperate for friendships and inclusion. Plant this thought in his head: “since this is a Christian group, these students should be immediately welcoming and attentive to me. It should be easy to make friends here.” With this naïve expectation in his mind, he will feel easily slighted and left out of social interactions. It will be incredibly entertaining, will it not, to watch him live this way without ever seeing the obvious self-centeredness of it all – as if everyone existed to meet his needs! Ha!
Especially since your project is new to this group, one effective tactic is to make him think: “I can’t go to the group’s social tonight because I don’t know anybody.” You’ve seen it before. People don’t want to go to the social event because they don’t know anybody there – all the while never realizing that this is precisely why they need to go. As long as he doesn’t wake up to the fact that any real relationships take time and pushing through the initial difficulties, you will have him in your hand. How the Enemy sees the foolishness of these creatures and still wants to help them and call them His own is beside me!
An important thing to remember as you seek to disillusion him is this: always keep him more concerned with style than substance. The ways you can do this are endless. Make him more concerned with the style of the music and whether it fits his preference than whether the lyrics are true or especially whether or not he is actually engaging in worship through it. Make him critical and dismissive of the speaker because of something insignificant like the way the speaker dresses, carries himself, or lacks enough humor. Combine this strategy with the unrealistic expectations I just prescribed above and you can make your man quit coming to a small group just because he didn’t click with others the first time, feels there are too many or too few members, or didn’t get put in the group he wanted!
If he does continue to stay involved, there is one last tactic: make him look around and see other students with obvious moral failures and judge them for it. Twist his idea of what a Christian is into someone who is moral and above struggle. This will do just the trick. Show him a believer who is still in process of overcoming addiction or a student who comes every week but still parties on the weekends, and you can drum up in him a judgmental spirit that will lead to disillusionment. In his mind, this will fit the stereotypical hypocritical image of the church and give him another reason to reject it. The Enemy has this disgusting desire for Christian communities to be safe places for sick sinners to find the healing, grace, and patience they need in their bumbling process of transformation. Keep him from understanding this and above all: keep him from seeing himself as someone who needs this kind of grace.