If you’ve read any of my writing before then you probably know of my general dislike for churches. Growing up, my family church-hopped for years before settling down in a stuffy little Baptist church where I lost brain cells listening to the pastor yell and scream about the love of the Lord Jesus Christ (I think). I’ve never found an engaging church where I’ve been challenged in any way or even nudged for that matter. Church sermons have always been a mindless blur to me except for recently.
Last summer, my wife began to urge me to tour the many churches of Warsaw in hopes of finding a home church. I reluctantly agreed after some persuading. Lena excitedly began online research and watching streams of services from our local houses of worship. A week later I came home from work to find Lena at the kitchen table intently watching a sermon on her phone. “I think I like this one!” she told me excitedly. I glanced at the screen and saw a chubby pastor who was talking to his congregation about reaching people who had been “burned” by a church in the past. I smirked at the slightly ironic topic of his message and listened to the rest of it while tossing together a sandwich. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t excited. Lena then asked if we could attend a service at the chubby pastor’s church the upcoming Sunday. She even punched it into google maps to show me how close it was. Since I didn’t really have a solid excuse as to why I couldn’t go, I agreed.
This church was in old repurposed middle-school building built in the mid-1900’s. Fresh paint had been applied to the aged cinder block walls and cheap carpet had been stapled down in the entryway. They had done a good job at dressing the foyer up with flowers, and tables, and the old trophy case had been filled with books. Although the service was to start in ten minutes, the foyer was nearly deserted. Upon walking into the building, Lena and I were greeted by a friendly curly-haired brunette who eagerly shook our hands and welcomed us to the church. She handed us a bulletin asked us a few basic questions such as “is this your first visit” and “do you live around here” and then proceeded to point a few things out for us such as where the auditorium and coffee were located. I was immediately uncomfortable upon engaging with this woman. The crowd is too thin for my liking and I felt that the few sets of eyes in the foyer were fixed upon me.
Lena and I elect to skip the coffee (I don’t eat or drink if I can help it in situations of discomfort) and make our way straight to the auditorium. The “auditorium” turned out to actually be the old gymnasium from the buildings middle-school years. Although more cheap carpet had been rudely laid down to give the room a warmer feel, there were areas where the original striped hardwood floor, on which hundreds of weeknight basketball games had been played over the decades, could be seen. It was a standard sized gym, but the church auditorium was only occupying half of it. Black curtains adorned with clear Christmas tree lights sliced the gym down the middle creating a congested hallway esc sanctuary.
Upon scanning the room, I was once again filled with discomfort. There were graciously thirty adults (and a handful of children) seated in the aisles. Much to my absolute horror the last few aisles (the ones closest to the back) were roped off with fake police caution tape (such as the kind you might find at a party store). Why the church leadership had chosen to do this was unclear. Something that also immediately struck me as weird was how bunched together the few people who were in attendance to this service were. If you go to the dentist, salon, any normal church, or wherever else that there is public seating, you will notice that humans (or perhaps just Americans) naturally spread themselves apart from one another. The unspoken “one chair rule” was being violated to the extreme! I contemplated just tossing the caution tape aside and sitting in the back, but quickly abandoned that idea and sat first un-taped row closest to the back. I quickly checked the time on my phone. How long was this horror show supposed to be anyway?
The service began with worship as most do. Taking the stage were four young people, all perhaps in their mid-twenties. Two of them wielded guitars and one took to the keyboard and one to the drum set. Among them was a blonde-haired young woman who took center stage. She welcomed the congregation and then said something like this;
“If you’re new here this morning, I just want to let you know that we get really loud in here praising God!”
She was not kidding. Lined up down the hallway sanctuary were giant speaker towers which were probably set to maximum volume. The drums banged and the guitars screeched. I couldn’t tell you what song they were playing. Something I did notice though- all of the tightly grouped congregation raised their hands in the air as they sang and many had their eyes closed tight. This is something I have seen in churches here and there but it’s often just a few people doing this (and then everyone else is staring at those few people). I have never seen an entire congregation raise hands before. After a set of a few loud and obnoxious songs, the worship leader takes a break to read some scripture. This is not uncommon, but her take on it certainly was. She says something like this;
“I just want to talk to the new people here for a second…we, as a church, believe that worshiping God is something that everyone in our building needs to do so we do expect that everyone participates in worship.”
I couldn’t believe it. As I mentioned before, the congregation was tiny making Lena and I the only new kids on the block and this worship leader had clearly been taking notes of who was raising their hands during the songs and who was not. It immediately clicked inside my head as to why all of the folks in the front rows made certain to have their hands raised. Then things proceeded to get even more cult-like. After another song (which of course Lena and I did not participate in) the worship leader says something like this-
“You know what I think we need this morning? I think we need a spirit of hallelujah from the Lord…”
The worship leader announced that she was going to be reading a verse from the book of Psalms about praise and hallelujahs and all that good stuff. She made certain to let us know that she was reading from the King James version which if you grew up in herd mentality churches, you know that this is the reddest of flags (not that there is anything wrong with King James version, but it is certainly the version of choice for cult churches). Anyway, I believe she read Psalms chapter 111 but before she started, she had this to say;
“Now I want everyone to close their eyes. Now hold out your hands, palms up.”
Lena and I are obviously not participating in this but looking around the room in horror and half-way expecting them to begin lifting the chairs with their minds or some such crap. The worship leader continued-
“Now as I read this Psalm, I want you to picture the Lord giving you a spirit of praise and when I finish reading, I want you to close your hands because you will have received the hallelujah!”
I don’t swear much but if there was ever an appropriate to say WTF in church, this would be it. Every single person in the church did this. Everyone! The worship leader shot daggers in Lena and I’s direction.
After the ritual, the worship leader informed the congregation that they had now been filled with a spirit of praise. Then they busted into another song. It was at this point that I began to observe Lena’s body language. She was standing (because we were still in the middle of praising Jesus, or whatever it was that this church worshiped) but her head was hanging low. She gripped the chair in front of her for support with shaky hands.
Now I want to back up to right when we first walked into this church. I need to quickly preface by saying that I’m normally not someone who is sensitive to spiritual energies. If you’ve read my old blog posts or my books you know that there have been some exceptions to that, but those occurrences have been few and far between. This church, however, was one of those exceptions.
From the second that I walked in that place and all while talking to the brunette greater about coffee and church events, I felt an intense presence. It was really similar to my first visit to Lena’s house a few years back which you can read about in “Saving Jane Part 2- A Haunting in Indiana”. Basically, there was something or many somthings in that church screaming at me at the top of their lungs. The church, much like Lena’s old home, was infested with evil! Although I felt a weight to that place immediately, I didn’t say anything to Lena. Lena also had similar feelings immediately, but likewise said nothing to me.
As the service began and the worship leader began her cult-like ceremony, that presence became stronger and stronger. The air felt suffocating and my heart began racing. This negative energy hit its peak for both Lena and I during the whole “receive the hallelujah” aspect of the worship.
“Do you want to get out of here?” I whispered to Lena as the congregation belt out another song, hands held sky high. She nodded vigorously. We gathered our things and speed walked out of there with thirty sets of eyes on our backs. We never even saw the chubby pastor.
Upon making our way to the parking lot Lena said; “What was wrong with that place?!” She had felt it too, the entire time. We drove away both relenting our experiences we had during our visit to what we determined to be a demonically controlled church of God.
While it may be surprising to think that there could be such a thing as a demonically controlled church, it all goes back to what I’ve been writing about since I began this journey a few years ago. Christians are not immune to demonic attacks-they are the targets of demonic attacks. Thus, a gathering of Christians attracts demons like a lion to a heard of gazelles. I would assume in this case that the demons have taken control of the church leadership. This seems like a safe bet considering the things that the worship leader said and did. I actually would have been interested to see what the chubby pastor preaching style was like.
One of the staples of the New Age Movement is the receiving of “spirit guides”. These “friendly” metaphysical companions are said to be guiding lights to discovering your spiritual side. During New Age seminars, the audience is invited to close their eyes and hold out their hands while the speaker talks. They are then told to picture their friendly spirit guide coming beside them to be their helper during this new journey that they are beginning. After this ritual, they are told to open their eyes and are congratulated for receiving their guides. As many victims of the New Age Movement would tell you, these friendly neighborhood spirit guides are not friendly at all and while receiving them is easy and takes seconds, removing them is incredibly difficult. I’m not necessarily saying that this church was actively assigning demons to its congregation, but I have done a fair amount of reading on the New Age Movement and I can tell you that there are some scary similarities between this “spirit of hallelujah” and the “spirit guides” offered by the New Age leaders. It’s scary to think of how many Christians work for the Devil or how many houses of God are really houses of Satan. That is why I’m so passionate about informing Christians about who their enemy is and what their enemy is capable of. If they know this, they are far less likely to be taken prisoner by the Devil and his demons.
I’m going to end this with a quote from a book that predates Christ. Until next time, take care.
“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
5th Century BC