In his somewhat unusual book, the Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis writes from the perspective of a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood. In doing so, he is essentially trying to guide him in how to destroy or make ineffective the faith of a man, called “the patient.”
One of the best known and most quoted letters of the 31 which make up this book, is Letter 16.
“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches… The search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy (God) wants him to be a pupil.” (CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters, Letter #16)
These words, written in 1942 are still relevant today. There is the challenge of church shopping, where we come to church as a consumer. Where we come to church and our primary concern is if it is what I want? What suits me? What do I like?
The other challenge, closely linked, is the critic, where we are constantly evaluating church according to our own preferences, our own desires or sense of how things ought to be done.
From the perspective of Screwtape, these are the primary questions he wants us asking. He wants the critic more than the pupil, or to use another word, more than the disciple.
A disciple asks different questions of church. The disciples asks, have I come to worship God? Who can I invest in today? Who can I encourage and pray for? What does God want to say to me today? Have I demonstrated the fruits of the spirit in my behaviour today?
These may not be the questions the Screwtape would want us to ask, but I suspect they are the ones God wants us to ask.