I received an email today that said it was from Pastor Jay Senior P. Since our pastor’s emails are never addressed like that, it was my first red flag. Then the first line started something like, “Please contact me, it’s urgent.” That, too, was a red flag. This was not my first bogus email so I called our tech guy to let him know. He laughed and said the email he just received said it was from Reverend Jay, another unfamiliar title. These bogus emails are fairly commonplace around our office, and we have yet to be fooled into thinking that for some crazy reason our pastor urgently needs us to wire him money, and so we hit the delete button and chuckle.

The creepy part is that as the years go by, it’s clear that more than one thief has viewed our website, looked over our staff list and sent emails to us in hopes we’ll be fooled and send them some of the hard-earned money that our people tithe.

This reminds me of the wolf in sheep’s clothing that we’re warned about in the Bible. Matthew 7:15-20 says,

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapesfrom thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

They come into a church family, friendly and helpful. For example, I remember one highly intelligent guy who began coming to a church I formerly attended. In no time he befriended the pastor. They began to meet for lunch and the pastor so enjoyed their talks about theology that he invited some friends to join them. But what started out as friends reasoning together about interesting topics, began to sound inauthentic. The man’s arguing became pointed and divisive. Gone was the friendly facade. His persistent pursuit of debate revealed that in fact he emphatically disagreed with the doctrine of the church and was out to change it. The pastor was disheartened that he had invited his friends to join them and inadvertently played into the man’s agenda to divide and change the church.

At yet another church, a man offered to have an evening Bible study at the church. He’d been attending for some time. He sold the leaders on his credentials and the topic of the study and gained permission to lead one. About nine months later, he’d gone off topic and I was invited to join it by an excited woman I knew who said she’d come across this Bible study and it was fascinating. She said she was learning all kinds of new things. Fascinating? New things? These adjectives peaked my curiosity – as in red flags – and so I went.

Sure enough, the man was teaching about his own false visions and prophetic ministries. He was a self-proclaimed prophet to a small crowd of very weak, vulnerable people, including the woman who invited me, and I was horrified that this had been going on unchecked. The man was glad to see me there, thinking I was going to join his group. I shut my mouth, however, for the entire evening so I could discern exactly how far off the teaching was and the extent of his bragging. I was absolutely sick listening to him. Most of the attendees were not from our church but were actually from their own “made up” denomination hoping to get members to leave our church and join theirs. Long story short, that was the last meeting he held there and he was told to never return. I had several long talks with the woman who had invited me, and praise God, she enjoyed learning scriptural truths and how to look for red flags. Instead of being embarrassed by her mistaken trust, she went on to teach others how not to be deceived. To God be the glory.

The battle is real. Someone wants what you have and what I have. While we may think we’re just fine, wolves are good at deceiving. They’ll do whatever possible to confuse and steal our faith, our unity, our peace and more from us. Be on your guard, watch carefully, cling to the Truth, the Savior, Father, Shepherd and you will be kept safe. Protect the weak, encourage the vulnerable and patiently teach them so they won’t be easy prey for the enemies that are out to steal and destroy. It’s no laughing matter.

by Jill Cristao, Director of Connections and Communications