‘‘The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. What man can do to me?’’
I once read a story of a lady in England who had a panic attack while shopping and was unable to explain her experience. Initially, she believed that it may have had something to do with where she was, so she stopped going there and began to shop elsewhere. When she had a similar attack in another location, she stopped going there too. Within six months she stopped going to many places and finally, she only felt safe indoors. She read, watched TV, surfed the web, cared for her husband and never went outside. The story reminded me of the many good but sometimes wandering Christians who went to different churches, and eventually choose or are forced to stay home. They fear coming to the Church and for some, the level of their fear amplifies and they became Ecclesiophobic. Some dictionaries define Ecclesiophobia as the fear of Church buildings, particularly those that are hundreds or thousands of years old; which have horror images painted on their walls. But in reality it goes beyond the four corners of a church building. Any building—whether a synagogue, temple or church—sculpture and images are all made by craftsmen or artists; and the Bible says ‘‘Do not fear them’’ for they are shaped by human hands and ‘‘they can do no harm nor can they do any good” (Jer. 10:5, Psalms 115:4).
When looking into how some develop abnormal fear of church, choosing to stay home can be attributed to bad past personal or collective church experiences. Unfavorable experiences Christians had encountered in the church led some members to a decision of avoiding any Christian fellowship. The Devil desires and acts in many ways to bring confusion and division among believers; to fill the minds of healthy Christians with negative thoughts, fears, and even hatred. He makes Christians feel uncomfortable in the church environment, for he aims to divert as many people as possible from the kingdom of the Lord towards the path of loneliness, darkness and destruction. As much as the enemy’s techniques and methods to pull us out of our safe-haven with the snares of fear, Jesus desires to help us resist any spiritual deception and trap. Some of the many ways to escape from the Devil’s trick are examined below:
- Be aware of what the scripture refers as ‘‘the depths of Satan’’ but do not fear him (Rev 2:24). If you have a fear of going to the church and you prefer to stay home or if you have any discomfort about Christian fellowship, be sure that it is not of God, but it comes from our adversary—the enemy of our soul. There is a possibility that any one of us can be caught in a whirlwind of confusion and be the victims of the Devil’s attack if we are not vigilant. It is even possible to be trapped by fear of Satan or the spirit of ‘Satanophobia’ if we are not consistent in our resistance. We are called to engage our enemy continuously in what Paul called ‘the good fight of faith,’ and not to run away from the truth. We have His promise and His spirit to empower us to persevere in the battleground. Paul insisted, ‘‘…lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses’’ (1 Tim 6:12).
- Prepare your Spirit to take the sword against the wicked one. When God acts to smash the Devil and tear down his works, the Holy Spirit takes out the s/word. The Bible says, ‘‘take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’’ but if the sword is not there in the scabbard, then we are in trouble (Eph. 6:17). Hence, alongside realising the works of the Devil, let us become a good student of the Bible. Remember how Eve lost the battle with the Serpent and see how Christ was able to stay on top of the game. The difference between the two is Jesus was able to apply the scripture effectively against the beguiler and Eve could not. If the word of God is planted deep down in your heart, you are able to conquer any spirit of fear that isolates you from the body of Christ. The scriptures speak of what benefit we (re)gain by coming to the church and what we lose in being hesitant.
- Keep in mind that no branch lives and bear fruit unless it abides in the vine tree (John 15:1). Once Billy Graham said, ‘‘churchgoers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.’’ There is no life in staying away from Koinonia/communion, and as David wrote: ‘‘how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalms 133:1). There is abundant life and blessing in being together with brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Devil knows that believers will play a great role in the deconstruction of his kingdom as well as the growth of the church when they stay in the church environment. Thus, he has inserted a misconception into the minds of some that their social capital will disintegrate if they come to church and allow Christ to come into their lives (for instance, they may be afraid of losing friends). However, as people who have a strong enemy that attempts to twist the reality of a Christian life, we need to resist his subtle ideas. As Jesus told His disciples, ‘‘behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19). In fact, we benefit immeasurably more by staying with our fellow believers and lose nothing. So be encouraged to draw close to the Brothers and Sisters around you, and do not be afraid of human beings as the Bible says, ‘‘so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:6).
Pastor Fitsum Kebede is a regular contributor to AwakenYouth.org. He recently moved from London to Los Angeles, California where he is now pursuing his Masters at Claremont School of Theology. Formerly he was an instructor at the Apostolic Church International Bible College in Addis Ababa.
Collector: Brother Ahadu Lakew from ACI Greater Los Angeles Area