The Darker Side of Small Group – Greg Morse
My Dear Globdrop,
I admit to modest expectations for your success, but the clumsy suggestions from your last letter have astounded even me. You’re on the brink of getting your man to leave his small group? Honestly, if I were not your uncle, I would demote you to a desk job at headquarters. If you want to forgo a life of disrupting the humans’ wifi signals, jamming their printers, and haunting the autocorrect on their text messages, then you must think more like a demon and less like the prey.
They, not we, assume that all small groups injure our cause, and thus that we must hate every last one of them. But what I assumed was apparent from our last discussion you seem to have missed completely. Nephew, we love your patient’s small group. In fact, one of the safest places in all the world to hide dead souls — and contaminate the living — is in such a cohort.
Now, don’t mishear me on this point. Keep your man as far away from all active regiments as possible. But this particular company of soldiers cannot march in straight lines or tighten up their boots properly — let alone load their rifles or fire pistols. Most are scarecrows, unanimated men and women who rather dislike spiritual exertion. Their weapons are too heavy, the armor of God too cumbersome — they pick dandelions on the field of battle. And believe it, Globdrop, their religious dizziness did not happen by accident.
At long last, we are reaping the harvest of what we sowed in corruption many years ago. We call it the A-bomb. It is an idea, a great Assumption really. The Assumption, simply put, is that everyone who believes themselves to be Christian is, in fact, so. To prevent any further confusion, let me explain.
Take a look at our beloved Ashley. She has been in the group now for four years and professing to be the Enemy’s for ten. Is she? Of course not. She is a perpetual gossip, totally unforgiving of her parents, and secretly feels about the Enemy’s own words like the humans do when stepping in something wet with socks. She shows no signs of that horrid change of heart that the Enemy makes in them. She has no real love for the Enemy — just a polite tolerance for the Christian religion. But there she sits, a Christian to all who see her weekly. Why? Because she thinks herself to be one. She thinks, therefore she is.
Nephew, although they never inspect each others’ uniforms, we take extra precautions just in case. Look at the girl. We taught her the accepted Christian slogans, filled her smartphone with (some) “Christian music,” got her to check a few spiritual boxes, then persuaded her that all discipline is nasty legalism, and even convinced her to get “grace” tattooed on her ankle — in Greek. In all my many eras of tempting, it has never been easier to pass the dead off for the living.
Ashley, along with countless other men and women, has been successfully smuggled behind their lines under the fog of this Assumption — despite even the most blatant contradictions in conduct. Most participants in such groups can come all the way here without any friction from their fellows who excuse lack of fruit as busyness, spiritual idleness as “freedom in Christ,” and unrepentance as merely that week in, week out moral clumsiness called falling.
For years now, we’ve watched the living among them smile at corpses, unable to admit that one of their own lies on the battlefield — not because he is spiritually drowsy, but because he is spiritually dead. See them prop dear Ashley up with sentimental platitudes? They have no suspicion that she is ours. We never tire of such groups. What ground the Enemy takes Sunday morning, we retake Wednesday evening.
In your group, (semi)regular attendance has even become itself a confirmation of each person’s salvation. Unlike those heathens who would never attend such a gathering, each “Christian” shows that they are truly saved not by that loathsome posture of repentance, faith, and desire for the Enemy and his people, but by their best efforts to attend the group each week. Remember, it is a Christian group after all. Who else would sacrifice a weeknight to drag three fussy children across town? Convince them that the weekly commute is really what their Master meant by taking up one’s cross.
Finally, to your man. Witness, my dear Globdrop, how a small group hit by this weapon aids in contaminating the living.
First, this group is teaching him not to take his Master too seriously. Although your rodent hears faint echoes of the Adversary’s demands — “He who does not love me more than all these is not worthy of me,” or “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, and strength” — he looks at the spiritual stagnancy of his fellow Christians and dismisses those standards to accommodate these “believers.” Every day his shield lowers.
Second, see how he is learning how to presume upon the Enemy’s promises. He has begun joining them as they encourage each other that they are forgiven without condition (which they aren’t), that any guilt over sin is only from us (which it isn’t), and that their Master loves everyone who calls themselves his — no matter how they walk in darkness. Your pupil is being taught to love the “promises” of the Bible while ignoring the commands completely — the very thing their Master told them to teach, and observe, in his final commission to them. Of course, this means that, very soon, it will be clear that the promises have never been his, and that he has always been ours.
Now, Globdrop, should anyone discover our plans, taking seriously their Master’s plain words about being born again to enter his kingdom, remind them of one of our main verses — devoid of all context — that we delight in reciting to them: “Judge not, lest you be judged.” This will silence the cowardly from ever calling the dead to “examine themselves to make sure they are in the faith.”
Your man has chilled in his pursuit of godliness and has recently relaxed in his reading of the Adversary’s Book. Do not let him leave the group, lest you find your man drawn into a different battalion where the Enemy is enjoyed, souls are won, and the Assumption challenged by what they call “speaking the truth in love.” If that happens, you will answer to our Master directly.
Your disappointed but expectant Uncle,
Greg Morse is a content strategist for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul.