The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis– 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.”

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, chapter 16.

It seems that our contemporary tendency to go ‘church shopping’ is not new. In Chapter 16 Screwtape invites Wormwood to consider the potential of ‘church shopping’ to upset the faith of his ‘patient’. Chapter 16 can be downloaded here:

Our local churches are each marked by a variety of local customs, traditions and habits. And sometimes, we can hold on to such things with greater gusto than our love of prayer, the riches of Christian fellowship or of the bible itself. Our treasured customs may not be ‘wrong’ on principle, but our hold upon them may be unhealthy, even unholy. Paul writes to the Romans about how we ought to conduct ourself in such situations:

Romans 14:1    Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5    One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 

Romans 14:1-8

For your consideration:

  1. Does your local church have an unhealthy commitment to some tradition or custom, which may threaten the weaker faith of a fellow Christian? What might you do about this?
  2. What seem to you to be ‘worthy’ reasons to choose one local church over another?
  3. What matters most to you at your current church? What ought to matter most?