Lifting the curtain on a spiritual battlefield

Our plans and hopes for moving forward were dashed by the stagflation of 1973. The project adviser explained why, and my stomach shut down. Four days later, I discovered I was in a fast, without knowing when it might end. My associate, Elmer Rund, retired USAF, and one of the most godly men I ever knew, said I could preach that weekend without breaking the fast.
After the last morning Service, I was called to my study, where one of the largest women I have ever known was waiting, with her husband. Staff had found her wandering about the campus, muttering and peeping, unresponsive to questions. She was known to me as a confessing Christian, and worked for a Christian day school as a bus driver. Now, semiconscious, we could all hear a conversation coming from her mouth, using several voices, alternatively cursing and threatening us. It was a scene worthy of “The Exorcist.” The voices responded to my questions with threats and taunts. We silenced them with the authority given to us by Christ, sent them away, and found a reasonable person controlling her body to complete the session.
That was the opening of a twelve month window that involved twenty different persons and a crash course in demonology and deliverance. Through hissing and screeching demon voices we learned that our work was being carefully watched and opposed in families and many neighborhoods. We learned that every passage in the Bible that described such experiences was helpful and needed. We found contemporary authors whose experiences were similar. The year came to a close only after a retired missionary from Japan observed our conflict and showed us how to escape the frequent entrapment.
It was a year of learning the usefulness of fasting, of the power of Christ over the evil, and the need for daily practice of prayers. It was a year of preparation for the much wider ministry that was soon to come, as we were called to Pasadena to undertake in-service training of thousands of pastors. The subject would be Church Growth. The reality would be beyond any set of propositions we might convey through lectures.

Island of knowledge, shoreline of wonder…

Spiritual darkness was alluded to, but not well defined, in our circles in the early 1960’s. For decades, visiting missionaries at our dinner table had tipped us off. They told of ominous encounters with an unseen world, but privately, seldom in public meetings.
A summer mission team assignment to Hawaii led to early hints of spiritual warfare. My cottage was behind a dune at this beachside on Maui’s North Coast, near Paia.  Eight of us, mostly grad students, conducted Bible schools for Islander children, toured on weekends and worshiped with the sponsoring church. The children were easy to love, but they did not respond as Stateside children had when the Gospel was shared with them.
One Sunday afternoon our team had a massive confrontation. Everyone had a gripe about the non-performance of others. Even the missionary reported his wife was oddly unhappy with us. Her health was why they relocated to Maui, to find a safer place for her.  In those days, we were not equipped to help her find healing and freedom.
As we met and prayed, it occurred to me that our experience was a result of an attack by the enemy of our souls. The dissention and complaining had come upon all of us, all at once, and was obviously a vicious blow to our morale.  As a team, we confessed our faults to one another, asked for forgiveness, and specifically rebuked all spirits opposing our mission in the authority given us by Jesus Christ.
The Monday that followed was unremarkable to any observer, except that at day’s end, when we recounted our contacts with the children throughout that day, we recorded 29 conversations in which a child had asked to pray and received Christ as Savior!
We had stumbled into a spiritual ambush, recognized it for what it was, used the authority and tools given to us by our Savior, and witnessed the outcome to which our mission was dedicated.
We did not understand how demonization works, nor did we have the insights and tools that might had led to freedom for our missionary hosts. That was still to come. But our island of knowledge had grown, and with it the shoreline of wonder was enlarged, preparing us for next learning steps that continue even now.

Exponential East 2017 in Orlando FL April 25–27

Over the past five years, one organization has called church planting leaders from many denominations to any of five annual events.  The largest such event is set for April 25-27 in Orlando. The purpose of these gatherings is to energize church planting efforts. They encourage the planting of churches that will commit to plant churches! One of their keynoters, Ralph Moore, has stimulated the planting of 2300 churches!
I have agreed to participate as a workshop presenter for two topics: one to explore the challenges of church plants based on four decades of observing them and their leaders, and the other to offer a glimpse of some powerful tools that are useful in healing the shattered souls of church planters so as to overcome their spiritual handicaps and increase their effectiveness. See my page at www.exponential.org for details.