Thursday, October 4, 2012

Evangelism and Demons

One idea, common particularly in Charismatic circles, is that the way to evangelize is to pray or otherwise work against the demons in charge of a particular geographical area. The idea is that if you somehow overcome the demon, the people there will easily be brought to Christ. It is, of course, common in non-Charismatic circles to simply dismiss such things as kooky. But is there any value at all in the approach, and what are the problems with it?

I always think that prayer, including concentrated and specific prayer, is a good thing, in evangelism as well as in general (Ephesians 6:18-20; Colossians 4:2,3; 1 Timothy 2:1-8). It also reminds us that we need to trust in God and not in our own abilities (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; Isaiah 40:31). Further, it is good to remember that we are dealing with spiritual forces when we are involved with evangelism (Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 4:3,4).

However, the whole idea of demons in charge of particular places is based on only a few places in Scripture (Daniel 10:13). And nowhere in Scripture are we told that the way to evangelize is to pray against such forces. Also, we have to ask if the Christian church has had to wait till this point to figure out the only correct way to evangelize. This can easily become a magic formula to automatically evangelize people. And it can try to bypass the Scriptural commandment to reach out to the people around us (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15). Now nothing we do is effective if God's Spirit does not work in people's hearts (John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4). But that does not excuse us from making the persistent, continuing effort to reach out.

Now there is a danger that non-Charismatics may come to trust in their methodology. They can end up minimizing or ignoring the supernatural. But it is common for Charismatics to overemphasize the supernatural and make it into some form of magic. We need to carefully steer the course between. But I sometimes wonder, when a gimmick encourages us to get serious about prayer, if it is always entirely a bad thing.

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