Before COVID-19, many churches were experiencing spiritual erosion, declining membership and attendance. The erosion/decline was subtle, hardly noticeable.
When early believers in Jerusalem failed to follow the Lord’s commission (Matt. 28:19), He allowed persecution to create a sense of urgency. This ignited the next phase of the Great Commission as they fled Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria to the remotest parts of the earth, where they preached the powerful promises of God found in the gospel.
Likewise, as dullness to Christ’s commission deepened in our generation, God used an unusual, urgent, loud cry to shake His church from its slumber. COVID-19 roared into our lives, preventing normal face-to-face fellowship. While we are focused on losses, the devil has increased his pernicious practices to thwart God’s call to His church in the crucible of crisis.
Satan is using a new weapon to capture sleeping Christians called catfish. The term actually refers to persons who are intentionally deceptive in their social media profiles. This deception can be elaborate and may involve the use of fake photos, biographies, and sometimes fictitious supporting networks, such as fake families. A catfish, therefore, is a person who creates a fake identity and uses it to lure people into a relationship, usually romantic, but increasingly to defraud or deceive gullible victims.
Some Christians will believe any lie or sensational post just because it appeared online.
Pedophiles, for example, catfish teens by pretending to be teenagers. They encourage their targets to share intimate information that is later used to lure them into face-to-face meetings that sometimes result in assault, abduction, or death. Getting “catfished” means that a person has been tricked into a relationship or activity by those who are not who they say they are. Because of the proliferation of social media, it’s now easy to connect, communicate, and build relationships with people one never sees.
Satan, the biggest catfish, uses this method to spiritually and emotionally drain the church, turning some believers into catfished Christians who will believe any lie or sensational post just because it appeared online.
Toying with a catfish is deceptively dangerous. Jesus said: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt. 7:15). False faces can conceal malice, greed, pain, and deceit. We are all vulnerable to clever catfish who pose as representatives of reputable companies, Christian ministries, or “friends.”
The devastation caused by the foolish belief that one can find romance or get rich quickly by purchasing a ticket, calling a number, clicking on an Internet profile, or sending a check to an invisible partner is indescribable.
The apostle Paul, knowing our human weakness, penned these powerful words: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such persons are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Rom. 16:17, 18).
Let’s stay away from catfish on the Internet, and wolves who come in sheep’s clothing with smooth talk and empty promises to seduce us into loss—especially our treasured eternal life.
Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.