Jonathan Leeman, in his book Church Membership, explains the biblical principles concerning church membership and how they apply to different settings (I heartedly recommend the book on the subject). At one point, he describes how although churches may be in different areas, they each are under enemy attack. He writes,
“All churches dwell in precisely the same context: enemy territory. Local churches, remember, are embassies. They don’t dwell in neutral or friendly territory but behind enemy lines. That’s why Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 equates excommunicating the man caught in adultery with handing him over to Satan. Satan is the prince of this world, and the kingdoms of the world temporarily belong to him (John 12:31; 14:30; Matthew 4:8-9).”
From here, Leeman shows that the enemy then uses different attack tactics to hinder the gospel and assault the churches in their various locations. Leeman’s observations are very insightful.
“Now, Satan uses different devices in different locations to undermine Christ’s kingdom. A favorite device of his in the West is cultural Christianity. The American brand of cultural Christianity results from well-intending adults handing out the candy of cheap grace to five-year-olds and twenty-five-year-olds alike. You ask them if they want to be with mommy and daddy in heaven or pressure them into walking an aisle. The point is, you play on their fears, emotions, or appetites in order to get quick, unconsidered professions of faith. Then you immediately affirm those professions. The European state-church brand, on the other hand, is much more civilized. Cheap grace comes with a birth certificate.
The genius of this device in both locations is that it allows Satan to inoculate their hosts against real Christianity. It’s nearly impossible to share the gospel with a cultural Christian because he already gives lip service to it. ‘Yes, I believe that.’ But there’s no repentance. He merely baptizes a slightly sanitized version of his old self into Christianity.
The other big danger of cultural Christianity is that it fools churches into thinking that they don't live in enemy territory. Churches feel as though their nation is home. That it’s safe.
On the other hand, Satan uses very different devices in different lands. In Orissa, India, he will use a technically illegal Hindu mob to burn down a church. In the central Asian city where Frank and Hanz pastor, he will use the local authorities themselves to infiltrate church gatherings, confiscate materials, and imprison the pastors. In parts of Africa he will use ancestor worship and African traditional religion to join forces with the gospel and morph it into something different.”
These are acute remarks from Leeman, and they are founded upon biblical realities. Satan amazingly is called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). His authority never surpasses that of God's (Matthew 28:18; Job 1-2), but Satan does have more authority and control in this world than we usually realize.
Moreover, Satan is said to have “schemes” (Ephesians 6:11). His authority is intentionally not obvious at times; he is crafty (Genesis 3:1). He cleverly and subtly manipulates the world and cultures in order to hinder the gospel and destroy churches.
Biblically, therefore, Satan has serious control and authority and he devises various schemes in order to hinder the gospel. Leeman’s insights are great meditations on these realities.
Quotes from Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 122-123.