Q:We hear a lot today about citywide exorcisms of territorial spirits. Where does this idea come from, and what does the Bible have to say about it?

—Nathan Miller
Rosedale, Ohio

A: The exorcism of territorial spirits is a growing practice around the globe, including among evangelicals in America. I know of a group of Christians who flew to a foreign city where they spread into key neighborhoods and historic spots to identify the demons that ruled over those areas. Afterward they reassembled for a time of aggressive prayer to name and bind the demons so that the gospel could spread powerfully there.

In terms of influence, perhaps two decades of overly mechanistic techniques, including church-growth methods and step-by-step evangelistic and discipleship programs, have left Christians thirsting for raw supernaturalism. In response, the church has seen a series of emphases on power evangelism, prophetic ministry, and even "holy laughter." Also, the New Age interest in spirit guides has stimulated a corresponding fascination among evangelicals with angels and demons, evident, for example, in the enormous popularity of Frank Peretti's novels.

The territorial component grew—at least in part—out of the notable effectiveness of citywide evangelistic campaigns in Latin America. Some evangelists in those campaigns attributed their success to days spent in wrestling in prayer against the powers of darkness.

I believe there is another influence as well: animism, which is strong in much of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In animism, all sorts of spirits are worshiped—including those of tribes and geographic territories. When this animistic world-view is taken at face value, a certain logic follows: demons oppose ...

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