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7 Ways Satan Tries to Destroy a Church

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8

I’m not a pastor who is constantly looking for Satan behind everything which goes wrong. I concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus — and not to focus on the defeated one.

We are to keep “our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith”.

Yet, I’m fully aware Satan loves to destroy – or attempt to destroy – a church. Obviously, Satan is a limited being – and God’s church is secure. The gates of hell shall never overcome what God started. But, Satan certainly loves to disrupt the work of God’s church – and the work of those who love the church.

Here are 7 way Satan tries to destroy a church:

Church conflict.

Satan loves business meetings which get out of hand or when two church members have disagreements inside or outside of church. He loves when church members argue about trivial things, such as colors of the carpet or big things, such as whether to add another service. Worship style or pastoral authority – doesn’t matter to the evil one. Show him a potential argument and he’s willing to stir the fire – and these days he may use social media to do it. 

Staff or volunteer burnout.

Satan loves to burn out a church volunteer, staff member, or pastor. If he can make them feel they are no longer needed, their work is not appreciated, or they no longer have anything to offer – he feels he’s winning part of the battle. He loves to spread the lies of discouragement and unworthiness.

Rumor spreading.

Satan is the stirrer of dissension. He likes to plant little seeds of a juicy story, about someone in the church or community – sometimes even the pastor or staff – and watch them quickly spread. The version, of course, usually grows to a larger portion than reality. Satan likes this too. If you’re tempted to repeat something you know you shouldn’t, the enemy will make sure you find an opportunity.


Satan loves to distract church goers with a plethora of activity, which produce little results in Kingdom-building, but make people feel they’ve done something. He loves programs, activities, full calendars – if they keep people busy in the church, so they never have time to share the Gospel outside the church. And, he has been known to guilt people into staying busy, so they never rest and eventually burnout – then fallout altogether. 


Satan attempts to interject what is often called a “half-truth” – just a hint of false doctrine – and then watch it disrupt or divide a body. Of course, we all know half-truth is really just a cleaned up version of a bold face lie, but Satan is clever enough to disguise a lie in a way where false teachers gain entry and do damage before being discovered. The enemy also loves to condemn you, convince you you’ll never measure up, and remind you all the things you did wrong. He is not afraid to lie about God’s grace, His unconditional love, or the Spirit’s work in your heart.


Satan loves when the church makes the news – especially if there’s a good, juicy, gossipy headline in the local paper. If it will split, divide or destroy a church body – even better. If it will destroy someone’s Kingdom calling or work – he’ll take it too. He’s striving for Christian leaders – he wants to destroy their reputation – the more people thought it was foolproof the better.

Marriage and family disruptions

Satan loves to destroy any relationship, but he also goes after key leader’s marriages – even the pastor’s marriage. He likes to encourage prodigal children – to never return home. He wants to cause families to fight within the church and fight with the church. Satan knows if he can destroy a home, he has a better chance of destroying a church.

Thankfully, there is good news:

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

Let’s be aware – and stand strong, Church. 

What other ways have you seen Satan try to destroy a church?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 60 Comments

  • Adam says:

    Lies and scandal. The church is slowly inploding. People leaving. And the senior pastor doesn’t realize his lies and lust and laziness have consequences. Lying about why staff leaves. Lust that lingers too long on glances and smiles to a certain woman. Laziness in watching soccer game after soccer game and writing soccer blog after soccer blog in the office on the church dime. My frustration turned to pity. I pray it turns to compassion. Families are hurt. People are confused. Little do people realize what’s going on behind the scenes.

  • PeterEdson says:

    Ours is a cross cultural, multi age church where we are Discipling our youth & young adults in personal growth, worship & leadership. It is an exciting time & we have a healthy group of people who give prayer covering. There seems to be an attack on those who are growing in Christ through cancer & other sicknesses that have either taken a long time to diagnose or have required radical surgery to remove tumors etc. I'm talking about young adults under 30yrs. We will be gathering together with these young people in order to cover them with prayer protection & declare healing & victory over them. I firmly believe this is one of the evil one's more insidious strategies. As we humble ourselves before God, submit to Him & intercede I know that the evil one will have to leave & take his attack somewhere else. May our Victorious God be with you all.

  • jimpemberton says:

    Another good list. I would add lethargy. There are three areas of lethargy in a church: spiritual, intellectual, and physical.

    Spiritual lethargy is a church where the members don't often pray, cultivate humility, and engage in the mortification of sin.

    Intellectual lethargy is where the members don't read the Scriptures and try to understand them better. The Scriptures are the normative voice of God that we all long to hear.

    Physical lethargy isn't a failure to get exercise. It's taking what we have cultivated in our spiritual and intellectual lives and going out to fulfill the Great Commission. We need to be in the business of making disciples in our own families, in our neighborhoods, and around the world.

    When a church has a culture that focuses only on Sunday morning, those Sunday mornings become hollow and like a hollow tree will rot from the inside and eventually fall. We shouldn't come on Sunday morning to recharge our spiritual batteries. Rather, we bring to Sunday morning what we have been practicing all week long, having been plugged into the work of the Kingdom constantly, and share in that same worship with the brothers and sisters we have covenanted with when we gather corporately.

  • Church conflict in your first point seems to be one of the enemies favorite methods. So many times I've seen relationships within the body sour and it can put people in opposite corners. This is even more destructive in the church where there are cliques, where those on the outside of certain relationships are not easily let in. Relationships are a hard part of life, it's no question why it's an effective spot for the enemy to attack.

  • mike says:

    If people get their eyes off of Christ, or in many cases, never had their eyes on Christ in the first place, that church is very much in Satan's grip. Doing "Christian" stuff, talking right, living with externals, etc., those are things that destroy Christ's church, in fact, they beg the question as to whether those kinds of churches were ever even part of Christ's church. And that's what many churches are today. Full of unconverted people. If Satan can destroy it on that level before it even becomes a church, then he succeeds mightily, and I believe, our country's history proves that today.

  • Chris Gray says:

    Satan uses the “commitment to God” offered by some members which is really commitment encircled around their agenda in disguise. What is at hand is likened to what Peter called the work of Satan in the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira.
    We need to ask ourselves if we are surrendered to God’s plan for His Church or our personal preferences?
    There were grave consequences (no pun intended) when members of the church had said they had committed to God, when all along that which they were committed to was what they were wanting for themselves.
    I don’t think it was a “money thing” that brought down God’s judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira, it was that they said they were committed to God with one hand and in reality were only committed to what benefited themselves with the other. It was simply selfish ambition disguised in the masquerade of mouth-service to God.
    There are many of us in God’s church who need to repent of mis-aimed commitment that benefits only ourselves and our preferences and resubmit our lives, desires, and preferences to what God wants from us, for us, and through us for His glory and His alone.

  • Brent Dumler says:

    Ron, I'll add this to your part on busyness. Aside from Kingdom-building is the issue of spiritual growth. In today's society, it is so easy for church attenders/members, to fill their schedules so full of good things that benefit the ministries of the church…yet forsake their personal growth journey with Christ. As church leaders we must constantly check in on those who serve, paid and volunteer, to ensure that they see observing some spiritual disciplines each day as a priority. Busy does not necessarily mean healthy. Thanks for the post, Ron.

  • arjhi says:

    4 ways to avoid discouragement
    1.)Do not be the reason of discouragement of your brother. (Luke 17:1-2)
    2.)No negative report (Numbers 13:17-23)
    3.)No negative words (Joshua 6:10)
    4.)No stopping short

  • Phyll says:

    Have witnessed so many of these points in the three churches we watched breakdown. Could have written this list with you Ron. For us it was a real test of faith and at the same time a strengthing of our beliefs in God, not a man. Fortunately, we have maintained personal friendships from those churches and retained many lessons of the truths on which a church should be based; not the attraction and magnetism of a pastor. The experiences were gut wrenching at the times. Total dependence on the Trinity.

  • — Jealousy
    — Misunderstanding
    — Ego
    — Anger and Rage (Tit for Tat attitude)

  • Polycarp says:

    !). Humility- the opposite is pride
    2). Meekness, the opposite is anger
    3). Temperance- the opposite is gluttony
    4). Chasity- the opposite is lust
    5). Brotherly Love- opposite is envy
    6). Liberality – opposite is covetousness
    7). Diligence – opposite is slothfulness
    Having the Mass said in the vernacular only brought out to the surface what "WE" have been NEGLECTING to do for generations.
    A lot of people have a split personality, the physical, and the spiritual.
    "WE" don't pray enough, devotions, spiritual read and live to the fullest ( try too ) 24/7- 365/366 days a year.
    Confessional use should be at least 2x's a month.
    The Mess we have in the Church, is bottom line, "OUR" fault for not being more rock solid-Christ Like literally.

  • christina says:

    It doesnt take a rocket scientist to see that devil is everywhere in this world!. I see evil at work, i hear it on tv, and see it even in my own isnt talked about, good things are ignored, everything is negative…FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT!! be the light in the darkness,use the great tools and power that jesus has given us…there is a battle in the spiritual realm, and lets bring jesus a victory!! God bless you all:)

  • Vlad_Imirivan says:

    a terrific representation of the "7ways.." (though I think '6' woulda sufficed:-) was The Reformation, I pray for that day when all the separated brethren come together and return home to Christ's Apostolic consecration.
    I feel blessed to be allowed by Him to see this 'return', and know that 'thing below' is tearing it's hair out.
    We all just got to keep praying all we can, and beyond, never give up hope, we KNOW God loves us, b/c He keeps sending us hope, His hope in the babies He keeps sending us.

  • Don says:

    How much is Satan really involved? I believe in many situations all he had to do was whisper a thought and a person just runs off with it to ruin the fellowship. There is also the issue of unforgiveness within a person or persons that can destroy the unity of a vibrant fellowship. I have also seen disgruntle members leaving one fellowship and bringing their hurt that affects the new fellowship. There are so many pitfalls for Church. You are so correct in you preamble that you 'concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus'.

  • Calvin Brown

    He also will allow a stronghol to sit deep within a leader until the church begins to make a difference and then he’ll attempt to bring that leader down. I was a part of an influential church for 15 years then the pastor started introducing new age concepts. In time he changed the whole direction and the church fel apart. Deception is another way Satan works to detroy churches.

  • ruizsainz says:

    You forgot the main cause of destruction. Check out what Satan, through Pope Paul VI, did in April of 1969 regarding the Perpetual Sacrifice of the Mass.

    • Michael says:

      You are an educated Catholic… began prior to 1969..Vatican II opened the winds of change which inturn allowed Satan access…….Many Catholics know nothing about their faith prior to Vatican II…..Paul VI..JP II and Benedict are not true Popes……….what is truly scandalous is those people who consider themselves Catholics and yet have more concern about the public criticism than about the gross sins being criticized. Catholics need to Make sure that their moral and doctrinal priorities are straight. Unfortunately, many Catholics are members of sects that falsely try to make speaking the truth against their errant leaders a sin…..St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and many other Doctors of the Church clearly condemned this notion of silence in the face of corrupt doctrine and subservience to errant prelates who teach it.

      • ruizsainz says:

        I appreciate your comments, Michael, and I must add that the Apostasy of the Church opened the door of the coming Antichrist and his ruthless World Government.

  • Ellen says:

    Good article — Read the SCREW TAPE LETTERS by C.S. LEWIS, and one will get an education on how the EVIL one works, and tries to destroy souls.

  • Michael says:

    Vatican II accomplished all Seven Ways and more to the Novus Ordo Establisment ..from the Vatican down….JP II and Benny and the Jets have completed the deed….

    • Lorraine says:

      As a Catholic I am offended by your statement Michael. Name calling and division are tools of the devil. I appreciate the above article. Thank you.

      • Michael says:


        I think you should pray earnestly and seek out the True Catholic Church….We are in very difficult time…We as Catholics cannot be papal worshipers….We must adhere to the true teachings and not be misled…..Do you actually think Pope St Pius V or any other True Great Pope…would allow and teach fasle teachings? Thats is the problem today..Many Catholics have no clue about the True Faith…I pray for a Holy Pope and Holy Priests daily ..and the restoration of the Church….God Bless


      • Michael says:

        Catholics are ignorant of the fact that they are under the obligation of the First Commandment of God to condemn publicly prelates who corrupt the Faith. In the past, Catholic Saints have used satire, and even ridicule and sarcasm, rhetorically to draw attention to false doctrine and corruption perpetrated by popes and bishops. If these Catholics were more familiar with Catholic teaching, they would know that the greatest Saints — Athanasius, Augustine, Basil the Great, Thomas More, Catherine of Siena, and so many more — have vilified bishops and even popes who would betray the Catholic Faith by teaching corrupt doctrine.

        • Vlad_Imirivan says:

          everybody is 'ignorant', and proud of it, when we nailed Him to the Cross, (and continue to do so whilst we point the finger of condemnation at everyone but ourselves), and ignore The catholic Church He established for the salvation of 'all'.
          Saint were not borne saints, none of us are, like the fine examples you mention that did what they did above n beyond the call of love.
          "False doctrine" is found mostly by those seeking "false doctrine"

  • You've done a great job of pointing out that busyness and burnout are often tools that the enemy uses. I've seen this happen on more than one occasion. I think the true danger lies in that we don't recognize this as attack. It's just normal, busy life in our eyes – so it's easy to drift away unknowingly. We need to realize what's going on and snap back to our senses. And I think half of that battle is what you're doing here – pointing out that this is one of the ways Satan works.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thank you so much! I agree. When we aren't aware we just sort of drift along; often to places we don't want to go.

  • Bryan Ruffin

    Santa? I love it! I’m dyslexic and still find humor in that one!
    I have to agree with what you say, many of things you mentioned you will find going on in the Church almost everyday. I honestly believe it is Satan (Santa LOL) doing his best to create the trouble you spoke of, I never really put it into that context before, though. Thanks.

  • Thanks, Ron. Good reminders here and some points I can apply right now. Timely post.

  • I would add apathy (conditions outside of the church & the lost) to your list.

  • I think you touched on this with busyness, but isolation is a good tactic of his too. Get the church focused on itself and into its own little bubble. Once that happens, it may not be destroyed, but it is contained.

  • Sunny says:

    What do you think about a pastor and another leader of a church not disclosing to parents that a registered sex offender was worshiping with them? That kind of falls under scandal, I guess. How would a church recover from this betrayal of trust, particularly when the church did not have a child protection plan in place and the sex offender was allowed to mix into the crowd along with children. Children have no knowledge that this man is not "safe", but the pastor says it's gossip if you tell others about the sex offender.

    • ronedmondson says:

      I would say Satan would love an open door like that.

      • Sunny says:

        Would you agree that the pastor is right then?

        • ronedmondson says:

          No, I don't really know enough about the situation to take sides. My comment was general not specific. I would think if a registered sex offender was anywhere near children's ministry then the parents need to know. We are a large church, so we hire security guards and beef up all our security efforts in children's ministries because there is no way to guarantee safety for children from every danger. I would want to be the pastor, however, before I fully analyzed his decision. Side-lined quarterbacking is not my specialty.

      • Polycarp says:

        Satan is incapable of love, only hatred and contempt of God ( Who is LOVE ) that Satan ( she, he, it ) seeks to destroy what God, Himself has created.

    • PeterEdson says:

      Sunny it's not the right of every church member to know every sordid detail of other's offences. I'm sure you would not be asked to disclose yours or your families secret sins. However that is why your pastor is the leader & those who are in spiritual leadership of the church should prayerfully & wisely consider how an ex offender can take part in the Body of Christ. We have managed this exact scenario & others from the top down. With church leadership approval & specially selected supervisors the individual is compassionately & carefully supervised so that they can be part of the church family. Above all every person is loved unconditionally by Father God & created in His image. What attitude has God asked you to have toward this offender who I assume has served their time & can only find grace in the Body of Christ? I hope you have all been able to grow through this. Blessings.