What role does spiritual warfare play in your thinking about the mission of the church? I was challenged and inspired by a story Fred Lian (photo), pastor of Gracepoint Community Church of Littleton, CO told me recently. He committed that story to writing and presented below as a letter to us.
In each of the last six years, I have had the opportunity and blessing to travel to Almaty, Kazakhstan to teach, preach and counsel pastoral and lay leadership of the Evangelical Reformed Churches of Kazakhstan (ERCK). ERCK is the denomination of churches planted by EPC World Outreach missionaries with which we enjoy fraternal relations. The courses I have taught have ranged from systematic theology to counseling skills.
This past March I received an invitation from Azim Janbakiyev, pastor of Rakhim Church, to return in the fall. He asked me what I wanted to teach and I replied that it would be best for him to tell me what he and his fellow pastors determined would be most beneficial. In May I received an email informing me that they would like me to teach on “Breaking Spiritual Strongholds.” I took a deep breath, typed in “Okay” and hit the Reply button.
Over the next few months I began to read, study and research to prepare for the seminar. On Tuesday, August 20 I was typing up one of the sessions when I was prompted to email Azim and Arman Arenbayev, pastor of Almagul Church in Almaty. I asked them to enlist their congregations to pray for me because the subject matter was so intense. I sent that off and went back to typing.
About seven minutes later I was typing a sub-heading, “Who Are Demons?” I copied some verses from one of my Bible software programs and pasted them into the document. Immediately my computer froze. Ctrl+Alt+Del didn’t do a thing to resolve the problem (for you Mac people, ask a PC person what that means), so I had to shut my computer down and then restart. When I got back to that particular page in my notes the entire section was gone.
I started over: “Who Are Demons?” and then, this time, I went to another Bible software program to copy my verses – thinking that perhaps something was wrong with the other program – and I pasted them onto the page, hit Ctrl-S and my computer froze again. Ctrl+Alt+Del again had no effect, so I shut the computer down and restarted it once again. I opened the document and went to the page where I had saved the information and that entire section was missing.
A third time I typed: “Who Are Demons?” but this time I hand-typed the verses in, hit Ctrl+S and immediately my computer froze. Once again Ctrl+Alt+Del did not resolve the issue, so I shut down my computer and restarted it. And then it dawned on me that I had not prayed for my own protection! I have a spiritual stigmatism that often plagues me from viewing all of life and ministry through a spiritual lens. I stopped doing “work” and began to re-engage with God and prayed for His power to be exerted in and through my life and preparation for my trip to Kazakhstan.
Now that my heart was re-aligned I started typing again: “Who Are Demons?” and I copied and pasted verses from the first Bible software program I had tried, hit Ctrl+S and the computer stayed alive. You need to know that I had never had a problem with my computer prior to this, and I have never had a problem with the computer since that time. I was being “messed with and harassed.”
After reflecting on what had happened to me I recognized that this probably has far-reaching consequences for the Church. Each of us reads on websites and blogs, on almost a daily basis, how the Church is experiencing difficult times – and the stated reasons and the possible solutions are endless.
The EPC has defined itself as being Presbyterian, Reformed, Evangelical and Missional. I certainly embrace all that, even though it’s expressed imperfectly at times. And I fully understand we need to maintain doctrinal purity, and communicate clearly the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection, and connect with our community and culture with love, grace, and sensitivity. I’m all for that.
And yet, perhaps the reason the Church is not having the impact and influence it once did isn’t because we’re not reformed or evangelical or missional – perhaps it’s because we’re engaged in spiritual warfare and we haven’t viewed the spiritual, moral, and ethical battle from that perspective.
Perhaps we need to re-familiarize ourselves with the particulars of spiritual bondage; perhaps we need to re-introduce our churches to the power of prayer and fasting; perhaps we need to remind the people of God about the armor that is ours – and that it’s mighty and is to be used. I personally have neglected this significant facet of spiritual power, and I would surmise that many others have as well. And it’s not that it’s intentional, I believe that Satan has successfully distracted me/us away from this vital spiritual arena to focus on other “good” stuff, but perhaps not the right stuff for the battle we face.
Our enemy isn’t the culture, the political or legal system, nor is it liberal thinking and values. Our enemy is the evil one, the prince of darkness, the deceiver, the father of lies. And the directive Paul gives us is, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:10-12)
Francis Shaeffer put it this way: “We . . . are locked in a battle. This is not a friendly, gentleman’s discussion. It is a life and death conflict between the spiritual hosts of wickedness and those who claim the name of Christ.”
As a result of my “event,” I realize that we will never win a war we choose not to acknowledge.
In the fight with you,
Pastor Fred Lian