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Over the past year, I've been visiting with pastors and asking, "Have you ever encountered anything in your ministry that you would consider spiritual warfare?"

While the answers weren't unanimous, the clear majority responded in a very similar way. At first there was silence. Then the pastor would look at me as if sizing me up, then look down, then look me in the eye and slowly respond: "Let me tell you a story, and I hope you don't think I'm a wacko."

The pastors I talked to—Baptist and Methodist and Anglican and Anabaptist and non-denominational, liturgical and free-form, contemporary and traditional—each shared a story that included elements of the supernatural.

For more than half of those I talked to, this included confrontations with demons, usually speaking through the mouth of a person who had been tormented for some time, who had sought relief in therapy, in medication, and in support groups, but without success. But deliverance came only after an encounter with someone willing to address the presence of an evil spirit and the sin that gave the spirit its "foothold" (Eph. 4:27).

Others told stories of "atmospheric changes," where a harmonious congregation is suddenly marked by a climate of fear, suspicion, distrust, or bitterness. Again, many efforts at conflict management were tried, but lasting change came only after issues of sin and spirits were addressed.

Does this sound strange? It certainly did to me. And just a few years ago, I would have dismissed such stories as fanciful and unbelievable. But within the last two years, I found myself involved in at least two such situations, where medical and therapeutic treatments had been tried with very limited effectiveness. And freedom came only after directly addressing the spiritual roots of the situation.

As I talked with pastors, some even told me stories of accusing voices in their own heads, making recurring charges: "You are an imposter! Your ministry is worthless. Your words are empty! You can't be a Christian." The result: debilitating discouragement. Despair, especially as a result of believing lies, accusations, or half-truths, is a common form of spiritual warfare.

After hearing such a story from pastors, I asked, "Is this something you have been able to talk about with anyone?" The answer was usually no. I knew Leadership Journal needed to bring this topic into the open.

As Mark Roberts, formerly pastor at Irvine Presbyterian Church in California and now an influential blogger, puts it: "For millions of Christians throughout the world today, especially in the southern hemisphere, the reality of supernatural evil powers is assumed. That's not true for a good many Christians in America and Western Europe, however, who deny the existence of evil outside of that in human hearts and social structures."

So while many in the modern world deny the existence or ...

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Marshall Shelley is editor of Leadership Journal and an editorial vice-president of Christianity Today.

From Issue:Spiritual Warfare, Spring 2012 | Posted: April 26, 2012

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Displaying 1–5 of 14 comments

Nigel Forsyth

January 01, 2013  11:54pm

The early leaders of the church dealt with what they encountered when they encountered it . Ive seen current leaders tell people with mental health and addiction issues to go away and stop doingthat after all youre a new creation... We dont have to fight so hard , we need to acknowledge the fight , the final battles are not yet fought ,just the decision is set in stone . Use the authority we have , fast pray believe , even Paul had to do that, and encourage people to repent , confess and go to the elders for prayer . I was released from addiction to amphetimine, dope, alcahol, ciggarettes ,and coffee in one session of prayer after church . I had been a christian for a year and had not been able to "just be " a new creation on my own ..

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Danu Vino

August 08, 2012  9:22am

So glad the leadership journal did a whole issue on this mostly ignored topic. Being an ex-hindu, I grew up seeing demons being cast out all the time. Demonic manifestations are normal in most of the churches from where I come from. Many western churches completely ignore or do not believe in such things. Thumbs up to Leadership Journal for doing a great job bringing awareness to this. blessings

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Ana Lucia Novak

July 10, 2012  3:48pm

I'm not a pastor, but I have experienced spiritual warfare but pray about everything. Even as I am experiencing anxiety and fear, I must remind myself that the devil is a liar and would very much like to see me hate the women in my church (because I've been shunned or a source of gossip) or to look at my husband through tainted lenses and consider leaving him. I realize it's a fact of life, and the solution is to remain in prayer, reading God's word and calling out to Him all day if I have to.

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Debi

April 28, 2012  1:20am

Because the battle is spiritual is precisely why Moms in Prayer is calling women to pray for our children and schools, to go over the head of the prince of this world to The King for the salvation of this generation. But the call to prayer is hard for this American culture to answer--they are too busy caught up in the culture's way of "doing", of dependence on self and programs instead of God. Prayer is usually at the bottom of the schedule and the first thing to be eliminated. Recently, suicides of 5 teens in a small community spured two prayer meetings in one week. About 20 people came. But 200 came to hear the suicide prevention speaker. Typical. No wonder the enemy is gaining ground. The church is failing in its priestly responsibilities. Jesus connected prayer to faith in Luke 18 and asked if He would find faith upon His return. Our culture's current fascination with the spiritual world is playing with a real enemy who wants to destroy mankind, especially "Christians."

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Rev Mark Hunnemann

April 20, 2012  2:35am

"Mommy, after pastor Mark prayed for me, I don't wake up wanting to kill Seth (his little brother) anymore". This was said about a week ago, after I cleansed and blessed their house of a demonic presence...they thought it was the ghost of a little girl. The connection between belief in ghosts and rise in demonic activity is undeniable.I think it is Satan's favorite tactic for appearing as an "angel of light" and accellerating demonic activity. I was ordained in 1985 in the AR Presbyterian church--definately not known for demonology work. My book "Seeing Ghosts through God's Eyes" is the only biblical worldview analysis of the notion of ghosts--which has exploded in the last fifteen years, until now, one-third of Americans believe in trapped spirits. But when was the last time you heard a sermon on "the bible and ghosts"? The spiritual warfare which you speak so clearly about, is dismised by most church leaders...people are afraid to go to their pastors for help for fear they will be called NUTS. The Lord called me to this ministry to help people under demonic oppression. Five years ago I would not have dreamed I would be doing this, but now I am considered by some as an expert on the bible/ghosts/demons/ spiritual warfare. This is by default because hardly anybody else with theological training is carefully and systematically exposing basic ghost theory to the light of Scripture.And that is where much of the demonic activity is being generated. The spiritual warfare of which you speak is real, and I get calls and emails from across the country from Christians and non-Christians who are terriffied.My reformed seminary training did much to help me anlayze the demonic, but it gave me no practical training in knowing how to deal with it. I have been hearbroken over the dismissiveness of church leaders re this issue, so I am very grateful for your article. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.I hope and pray this will awaken many pastors.

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