Movies have led people to believe that the devil is a hideous creature whose appearance will scare the hoowally out of a marine. Yet, this is not my experience with him. I find him to be most agreeable with many of the things I want to do. I have found that he is not opposed to many ministry ideas if he can twist them. He loves taking good things and making them into something that takes away from God's glory.
I thought of some things (this is by no means comprehensive) he would rather we do. Many of these things are very good things. His influence can take our eyes off the Lord. His influence can make us feel good about ourselves while not doing what the Lord commanded. The devil is a master at the shell game. He distracts, misleads and hides the truth.
The devil would rather we give to the poor than reach the lost. These things do not have to be exclusive but they can be the focus in any church. There are good hearted people who enjoy helping people who will give all their time and effort to raising money and distributing food to the poor while being distracted from reaching the lost. Jesus said that we will always have the poor when an expensive gift was given to Him. One of his disciples thought the gift was wasted on Jesus. Jesus didn't forget the poor. He set the priorities straight. Our mandate is to make disciples. We must reach people, teach people and put them in service. Feeding the poor is part of that process. However feeding the poor should never be the entire focus.
The devil would rather we were more concerned about a disgruntled church member than reaching the lost. No church is trying to make their members angry. However, selfish people notice when they haven't received their due. They feel that they have earned a certain status and when that isn't given to make them happy, they leave the church. Many of their friends spend all their time trying to get them to come back. I am sorry to lose any member but it takes precious time and effort to accommodate a disgruntled member while lost people are being neglected. A church that starts down the path of making sure they don't lose anyone will quit reaching the lost altogether and eventually die. They will spend all their time making concessions and seeing that their own membership is happy. A church should be a place where the membership exists for those who are not members rather than the other way around.
The devil would rather we worship anything other than the Lord. He isn't opposed to good music, an immaculate sanctuary, beautiful stained windows, a huge pipe organ or even singing the Doxology. In fact, he would love for us to worship these things rather than the Lord. He would rather we were more afraid of losing or hurting these things than become estranged from our God. He loves it when people praise the preacher rather than the Lord. He loves it when they sing songs to be heard by others rather than understanding the audience is the Lord. He really doesn't care what we worship as long as it isn't the Lord.
The devil would rather we focus on fellowship than discipleship. There is nothing wrong with discipleship. There is a lot right with fellowship. However, our priority is to make disciples. Part of this is fellowshipping with the saints. However, Sunday School classes can spend too much time fellowshipping rather than reading the Bible and hearing it explained. Small groups can center around the dip that someone has made rather than what the Lord is teaching them. You really can't have discipleship without fellowship. Fellowship and discipleship must go together but the goal must be understood as discipleship.
The devil would rather we focus on growing our own churches than being obedient to the Lord. It seems that growing our own churches is what the Lord wants from us, right? However, the church has a promise that other organizations don't have. The Lord Himself has promised to build His church. Our responsibility is to be obedient. This means we do whatever, whenever for the Lord. He builds the church.
The devil would rather we notice what we can't do than what God can. Many times churches say they can't do something because they lack the resources. They lack the money or the personnel to accomplish something. The only thing we ever lack when we fail to do what God has asked is faith. If God has told us to do something then we need to go for it. Churches have a tendency to watch their bank accounts closer than they watch their prayer lives. They tend to hang their heads as failures rather than praise the Lord for what He is about to do. Faith actually scares those who lack it.
The devil would rather we fought among ourselves than fought we with him. He is excellent at getting things stirred up. He even uses scripture to do so. Jesus said that we will be known as His disciples because of our love for each other. He didn't say we would be known as His disciples because we have the right doctrine. The devil divides believers so that they will not see him at work. He knows that he will lose once we begin to fight with him. He works hard to make us believe that our problem is someone else in the church rather than him.
Again, this list is not comprehensive. I am sure that there are many other things the devil would rather we do. We just need to make sure whom we are fighting. We need to make sure whom we serve. We need to make sure than our God receives the glory. We need to know we are victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.