This story out of Chesterfield, Virginia, may serve as a warning for Churches across North America. Times are changing and Christians need to take note.
Late in the evening on election day, November 6, 2018, a man wearing a black hat with the words “I (heart image) Jesus” imprinted on it broke into Ironbridge Baptist Church. The church had earlier served as a polling station, but the building was now closed. Apparently one of the doors had not locked properly or perhaps was left ajar.
A man, between 20 and 30 years old, entered the church found Bibles and began ripping pages out of them. He then shattered a nearby window and spray painted a wall. The church estimates damage was minimal at around $500.
The intruder was caught on surveillance cameras and according to the Ironbridge’s executive pastor, Dennis Green, there is indication the “I Love Jesus” man knew his way around the building.
Though this happened at night when no one is around, why was he so familiar with the church? Now we don’t know who this alleged vandal was, his motivation or his connection to the church, but it begs the question what would we think of a person who walked into our church on Sunday morning wearing an “I Love Jesus” hat.
Would we immediately believe he was a Christian?
Is that all it takes to deceive us?
Probably, and I include myself in that answer.
Jesus warned of people dressed as Christians, but whose hearts were far from God:
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15 NIV)
In this instance, these people even claimed spiritual authority but were actually wolves intent on inflicting damage.
Other New Testament writers issued similar warnings. As the Apostle Paul was heading to Rome, he had what would be his last meeting with the elders of the Ephesian church and warned:
29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be on the alert … (Acts 20:29-31 NASV)
Paul follows Christ’s theme and says that savage wolves will attack the church, but notice how the Apostle adds that they “will arise from among your own selves.” In other words, these wolves were already in the church.
They were wearing their “I Love Jesus” hats and had been accepted by the congregation as legitimate and there is even a hint some were already holding leadership positions.
They were simply waiting for an opportune time to strike.
The Apostle Peter similarly warned of false prophets and false teachers who would try to twist the Gospel (2 Peter 2:1).
During this year’s mid-term elections in the US, an organization called Vision America produced a non-partisan voter’s guide for Texas churches showing where candidates stood on a variety of issues of concern to Christians, ranging from candidates’ positions on religious liberty to abortion.
These guides were handed out to dozens of churches. However, someone had managed to sneak in to several churches and inserted fraudulent copies of the guide among the legitimate ones. These guides negatively distorted Ted Cruz’s position on these issues. Despite this, Ted Cruz, a Christian, won the Senate race. But what is disturbing about this incident is that this orchestrated effort to distort the truth probably involved several people.
In an interview with CBN, Vision America’s president Justin Graves said:
“They snuck into churches to deceive church members. I’ve been around for over 25 years and I’ve never seen or heard anything like this.”
We have always had Christians who for whatever reason became offended and divided churches, but are we ready for people who will purposefully pretend to be Christians with the intent of infiltrating a church. They may even have a long-term play to achieve a leadership role.
Times are changing and we need to be open to the Holy Spirit. If you sense a caution, God may be trying to warn you.