March 2, 2022.
We live in a rational-based part of the world. Accordingly, things that are too spiritual make most people uncomfortable. Many in the West have unwittingly embraced the Richard Dawkins mantra that all spiritual beliefs are primitive myths that have been made up to explain the unexplainable, but civilization has now outgrown the need for such things. Unfortunately, even Christian leaders have been neutralized by versions of exclusive rationalism, and found it increasingly difficult to talk about things that are too holy or too evil, especially the demonic.
#JesusStories: There is a wonderful move toward Christlike discipleship occurring in this day, in which the developing disciples learn to replicate the actual behaviors of Jesus when he was on earth. This is a refreshing change from having students memorize hoards of bible verses and calling it disciple-making. However, there is one problem with engaging in Jesus’ actual Gospel behaviors – casting out demons. We can easily embrace Jesus’ preaching approaches, his evangelistic mannerisms, and even engaging in his healing prayers. But when it comes to casting out demons, we secretly wish those stories weren’t even in the Gospels. But they are in the Gospels, and in great supply. Whether it is the story about the naked man in the cemetery (Mk. 5), or the young boy who tended to throw himself into the fire (Mt 17), or the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter (Mk. 7), or the other 25 mentions of demons in the Gospels, Jesus was thickly involved in confronting demonic activity. However, the idea of casting out demons makes us queasy; it conjures up images of little green creatures lurking just beyond the periphery of our sight; we don’t want to do it and we don’t want to talk about it. Even though classic theology teaches there are three influences occurring upon the earth: The Carnal, The Holy, and The Evil, most would prefer to ignore the latter and instead focus on the holy interventions of God into the carnal world of man.
Would you be surprised to learn that the idea of ‘demonic possession’ and ‘demonic oppression’ does not occur in the New Testament? In the original texts, only the terms demonized or demonization are used. Possession and oppression are constructs of the latter Catholic Church to quantify the levels of evil at work in ones life. This has huge implications for us. If the people in Bible days were not actually demon-possessed, then Jesus wasn’t doing exorcisms, at least not they are so often portrayed. Rather, he was discerning the influence of evil in someones life, and confronting it in prayer and spiritual authority. I propose that we have been derailed by demon-casting-talk, when Jesus was in the business of confronting the evil influence that was ruining peoples lives. Now I realize that Jesus dealt with extraordinary cases like the incident with the swine; the evil emanating from that confrontation was so great that the pigs preferred to drown then hang around that stuff. Smart pigs. While it is doubtful any of us will experience evil on that level, we will experience evil trying to rise up in us, and in the lives of others. Anytime we are tempted to pick up a $100 laying on someones desk when they are not looking, we know evil is at work; anytime we hear someone lying to cast others in a bad light, we know evil is at work; anytime we see a drug addict stumbling along the sidewalk, we know evil is at work; anytime we see a crime wave roll into our city, we know evil is at work. The presence of evil is not a mystery to us, but we are quite under-practiced at confronting it like our Master did. Do not let the demon-talk derail you in this holy pursuit. As a man or woman of God, stand up in your calling to confront evil whenever you see it ruining lives. Resist the evil one, and he will flee (James 4:7). If we will show up, evil will back up. And in doing so, we will be responding in the same ways now that Jesus did during those 28 encounters listed in the Gospels.
#DinnerChurchQuotes: The Church must see itself as participating in Gods victory over evil. (Darrell Guder)
#PracticalStuff: How is evil ruining people’s lives in your neighborhood? That is a great question for your leadership team to discuss and quantify. Would you then consider writing a corporate prayer to confront that evil? And then pray it? And then make a strategy to pray it often? Where and when? In these way you can participate in the war against the evil that is uprising in your town.
Blessings & Boldness,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.