Spiritual warfare–offensive or defensive?

It’s 1981, and race riots are spreading across London. One of the riots is centered on the East End where we live. The  fear in the air is palpable. Listening to the radio, where a reporter is on the ground, we realize that the riot is coming our way–rapidly.

I glance out of our living room window. The Indian owner of the little corner shop across the road is nailing boards across his windows. His store is a likely target. A couple of doors down, a boy who can’t be more than 12 or 14, is gathering together a stash of weapons, mostly broken bricks and rocks and putting them in a pile behind a wall. Both are ready for whatever is coming.

The phone rings. It’s the other couple with whom we started the church. “This is our territory they’re encroaching on. It belongs to God. We have to stop what’s going on.”

So we conduct spiritual warfare. We use the spiritual authority Christ won for us in his death on the cross to tell the enemy that these streets belong to us and he has to leave. The riot ends just before the very street that we regard as marking the beginning of “our territory.”

This is clearly defensive warfare. It’s interesting that of the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6, all but the sword are for defense.

Fast forward a few years. The unemployment rates are at a high in the area–more than 20%. Several of the people in our network of home groups have been unemployed for months with no prospect of any jobs on the horizon. One Sunday morning when we all come together, we decide to pray about it. The Lord leads us into a prophetic type of warfare.

We put all those who are unemployed in the center of the room while we enact the battle of Jericho around them. Everyone marches silently round them six times. On the seventh time round, we raise the roof with our praise. Within a few weeks, all but one of them have jobs.

This was offensive warfare. (I’m not aware that we’ve ever repeated that prophetic act since then and I’m certainly not suggesting this is any kind of formula. As always, you have to listen to Jesus and do what he tells you.) In Matthew 16:16-20, Jesus says to Peter about his declaration that Jesus is the Christ, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

In this analogy, gates are defensive and the church is going to breach them. It reminds me of a battering ram. As the Lord leads us to hammer repeatedly against the forces of darkness, eventually they give way before us. We are on the offensive.

Have you seen anything similar?

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Who rules the earth? Jesus?

Here are two apparently contradictory statements:

God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. (Acts 17:24)

We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (I John 5:19)

I once asked the Lord how these two statements can be simultaneously true. How can Jesus be Lord, and yet the whole world lie in the power of the evil one? He gave me an illustration.

Photo Credit: kevitivity (Creative Commons)

The picture I had was of a low-income housing project, filled with violence, drugs dealing, prostitution, very similar to the one where we started a church a few years ago. Then the Lord asked me a  question:

“Who rules this housing project?”

I thought for a while. “If you ask the people who live there, many would answer, ‘The drug lords and gang leaders,’ and that would be true. But actually the government has ultimate control.” I realized that the only way that the authorities could change the area in the natural would be to move everyone out and to raze the place to the ground. In Hong Kong there used to be an area called the Walled City which was an ungovernable settlement ruled by organized crime syndicates known as Triads. In 1987, the Hong Kong government rid themselves of the problem by evicting the tenants and demolishing the area.

However, the people who live in the projects have a choice. They can live as though the drug lords rule or as though a righteous government is in control. And when a group of people choose to live a Kingdom lifestyle and to stand up for what is right, it has an impact.

Could that make a difference? I believe so. When we started a church in the projects, our friends who lived there reported that the level of violence decreased and some of the drug dealers moved away. Our prayers and spiritual warfare over the area made a difference.

My original question was answered by this illustration the Lord gave me. Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth. But Satan is in control of the earth, and the only way for God to completely remove Satan’s presence would be to destroy the place. But God loves us so much that he didn’t do that. Instead he sent his Son who, in his death on the cross and subsequent shattering of the bonds of sin and death through his resurrection, defeated all the powers of darkness. It’s now up to us to enforce God’s Kingdom rule. We do that through spiritual warfare.

What do you think?


Bringing our faith into our working lives

When we worked and ministered in the UK, our lives were very blessed. Everything we touched seemed to “turn to gold”–in the spiritual rather than physical sense. Tony, my husband, was leading a ministry that worked among doctors and others in the caring professions and extraordinary things were going on all over the country. The ministry taught these professional how to bring their faith into their working lives in a sensitive and relevant way. We ran conferences that showcased examples of doctors who were doing something meaningful. As others professionals saw what was going on, their response was often, “I could do that in my practice.”

For example, I remember one family doctor giving a report on what he had seen the previous year. He had kept a record of every patient he had communicated the good news about Jesus to over the course of that year–about 150 people. Of those, around 50 had become followers of Jesus the first time he spoke with them, and another 50 had become believers some time during that year. The remaining 50 were an ongoing story. All over the country, doctors were seeking to communicate the Gospel in effective ways to their patients.

When Tony was practicing medicine, he probably saw several hundred of his patients find the Lord. In the UK, in part because of socialized medicine, the family doctor handled far more than the typical medical problems. If someone had a kid who was using drugs or had marital difficulties or any other social need, the GP was usually the first person they went to for help. Often, when his patients came to him with needs that were not really medical in nature, Tony would say to them, “You know, I don’t have a pill I can prescribe that will sort this out, but have you ever thought of praying about this situation?” The most common response was, “Doctor, I’ve prayed about it, but I don’t know if anyone is listening.” That was an open door for a spiritual conversation. During one memorable six week period, a person became a follower of Christ every day his office was open.

Other doctors moved into the very poor and socially deprived area of London where we lived and worked and had our church. One day, we did the math. In our (more traditional) church, there were 14 family doctors.  Our area had around 120,000 people living in it. Between the doctors in the church and their partners, anyone becoming sick in our area had a one in three chance of sitting down next to a Spirit-filled doctor who was looking for an opportunity to share about Jesus.

Other doctors around the country were running Bible studies in their offices, or referring the social needs of their patients to their churches. In fact, the impact was such that even the medical authorities were beginning to take notice. We heard one day that a family doctor, in his final oral exam in front of the licensing board was asked this question: “What would you do if you found yourself in a practice with doctors who were evangelical Christians who took every opportunity to speak to their patients about their faith?”

Our conferences were attended by around 5,000 people per year. I remember a particular conference we ran for consultants. At one stage, this group of 50 or so eminent consultants were asked to stand on their chairs and praise God at the tops of their voices. If these distinguished professionals were willing to humble themselves before God in this way at a weekend conference, it was easy for them to speak to their patients about the Lord during the following week.

So when in 1987, the Lord spoke to us that we were to move to the USA, we assumed, naively, that God wanted us to do the same kind of ministry among professionals here. Were we in for a shock!

Have you found effective ways to communicate your faith through your working life? I’d love to hear the story.

A day in the life of a workplace chaplain: guest blog by Michael Tummillo

I often get asked the question, “I’m a pastor. How can I support myself if I leave professional ministry?” A workplace chaplain is one possibility. Our company uses a workplace chaplain–not just for our employees, but if appropriate, we also make one available to our clients.

Michael Tummillo is a workplace chaplain. Here, he describes a typical day:

Photo Credit: theps.net (Creative Commons)

Yesterday, after a 3 1/2 hour drive to East Texas, I visited with and ministered to the staff at a nursing home. Aside from a few handshakes and hugs with people who, after nearly 6 years, already know if they need me, I’m available, the following instances took place:

  • I met two new employees, one whose engagement to a person of another race is not being well-received by family.
  • A woman was sobbing as she walked in to meet with me. Her step-daughter’s aunt had just had a stroke after delivering twins that very afternoon. We prayed and talked.
  • Another woman’s son is in jail and her spouse is an alcoholic. But he is attending church these days – he recently called me and told me that himself. More prayer and counseling with her.
  • After some residents died of natural causes in recent weeks, one attendee was taking those losses pretty hard. She talked. I listened. We prayed.
  • Another employee with whom I counseled last month when she had written a letter of resignation is still working there! I was delighted she’d changed her mind. She was glad of her own decision.
  • The Administrator was recently married. I brought him a wedding gift and we discussed several marketing issues.
  • A man was crying inconsolably regarding his wife’s recent doctor’s report. More prayer and counseling.
In short, it was pretty much the same as my previous visit. As I made the 3 1/2 hour trip back home, I received an additional two counseling calls on my cell phone.

Point is, similar situations exist in every workplace on earth. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, though you may not have the official title of “Workplace Chaplain,” the fact is, you are the church in the workplace. It’s Christ in YOU, the hope of glory that your hurting coworkers need to meet. We must blend the sacred with the secular! Your job is every bit as important as any apostle, pastor, prophet, teacher or evangelist. At the very least, allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you may prove to be much more important to a hurting soul on any given day. With the rise in workplace violence, theft, bullying, murders and suicides, one work, one touch, one prayer from you could make all the difference in the world.

Employers, you would be wise to release this army of Jesus-lovers! Your business will be blessed for doing so. If you haven’t considered putting a Workplace Chaplain on the payroll, what are you waiting for? And if you already have a Chaplaincy, make sure your leadership team makes it a point to “drive traffic” his or her way.
Michael Tummillo is a Workplace Chaplain in Texas and founder of the international ministry, The Church @ Work (TCAW). A one-finger typist, Michael has had an online presence since 1999 and has reached millions with his email devotionals, and other Internet activities. You can reach him via email at miketummillo@me.com, and his blog can be found here.

What is prayer walking?

Prayer walking
Photo credit: Stef Lewandowski (Creative Commons)

When we started a church in the low income housing projects, the first thing we did was to prepare the ground in prayer.

In Matthew 12, Jesus gives an illustration in his defense against an attack by the Pharisees. They accused him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. He replied, "How can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his goods." (verse 29)

Who is the strong man Jesus refers to here? It is Satan or one of his minions. What are his goods? It's the people who he's taken captive. If the Lord leads us to start a church in a certain neighborhood, we do well to prepare the ground by prayer walking.

In Joshua 1:3, God tells Joshua that he will give him every place where he sets his feet. There is something about praying "on site with insight" that prepares the way for the Lord to come.

What does prayer walking consist of? 

  1. We survey the land: When Moses sent the spies into the land of Canaan, he was effectively doing a spiritual survey of the land before they went in (Numbers 13:1-25). We walk the area taking note of anything of spiritual significance and asking the Lord for wisdom and understanding as to what is going on in the area.
  2. We ask the Lord for his plan for the area
  3. We establish a prayer team: Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, praying as they went.
  4. We physically walk the area. As we do so we are praying that God will reclaim the area:
  • We praise and thank God and bless the area and the people who live there. We bless everyone who impacts the area–the police, the education system, etc.
  • We pray for the welfare of the people who live there. In Jeremiah 29:7, the people of Israel were told to pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon, even though it was the land where they were held in captivity.
  • We demolish the strongholds that are there. Jesus has all authority, and he has given us that authority to bind the demonic powers that hold the people who live in that area. We use spiritual weapons to overcome these demonic powers.
  • We repent for the problems of the area. We are priests, and as such, can pray for the redemption of the people of the area.

Psalm 2:8 says, "Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your possession.

An outstanding example of the impact of a network of house churches

Back in the early 90's, Jim Mellon was on the eldership team of a megachurch with a $1 million a year budget. One Christmas, their church didn't have the funds to help a member's family where both husband and wife had lost their jobs.  As he and his wife, Cathy, discussed it, they realized that church shouldn't be this way, that there should be resources available to help any members of the body in need (Acts 2:45, Acts 4:34-35).

As they searched the Scriptures, looking to see what the Bible had to say about church and finance, they came across the concept of church meeting in homes, and because of the financial implications, began a network of house churches.

From the start, finances played a big part in what they did. They now give to needs in their city, such as the local soup kitchen as well as to Christian ministries, and benevolence to people within the body has been a foundational principle too. They are known by their mayor and city council because of their faithfulness in giving. Their people not only give financially, they also involve on the ground in the places they help. They support church planting in India and Haiti and send mission teams out to these places.

After a while, they found that they were sometimes in the position of the megachurch–that in any given month they might run out of money before their financial obligations had been fulfilled, so they changed their pattern of giving. Instead of giving a set amount to a ministry, say $200, they now give a percentage, so they never run out of funds and there is always money available for benevolence.

They decided from the start that any leadership should be bi-vocational and to this day, only have very part time paid administrative help. 

This network of simple/organic churches is profoundly effective with their finances.

Since their inception, they have given more than $1.2 million away to missions and benevolence.

Meeting people at their point of need

There have been some fascinating and insightful responses to this series of posts on having a social impact. Here are some of them.

Gary said:

Jesus wasn't going around thinking "How can I have social impact in this town today?" Being about His Father's business included that aspect as well. My point was that if we do the works of Jesus, and focus on things from a spiritual perspective, we'll have the social impact we're looking for. If we come at the problem from a purely "social impact" perspective, and are only concerned about how we can impact people's physical needs and fail to preach the gospel, we have failed.

Gary again:

While many are trumpeting social impact/issues, they usually forget the spiritual aspect. To spread Jesus without taking care of a person's material needs is not really helping the cause of Christ that much. After all, Jesus was concerned about the whole man not just the spiritual. Feed someone first and then they are more readily willing to accept the "why" behind what you did. My point was–and is–that to talk about "social impact" without including the real gospel being preached is to miss the mark.

Dan said:

To go too far that direction (of only preaching the Gospel) would create an imbalance in the teachings of Jesus. I think evangelicals in general over the last 40-50 years have been mostly out of balance in that direction. Many openings for the Gospel have been created in recent years through groups like World Vision, Samaritan's Purse and my denomination's ReachGlobal ministries that are going into Muslim countries and unreached areas to help those suffering from natural disasters, hunger disease, etc.

UnkleE said:

"Jesus wasn't about social impact; He was about his Father's business"  Jesus said caring for people was his mission – see Luke 4:18-21:  So proclaiming good news of the Lord's favor, setting the oppressed free, freeing prisoners and healing blindness are all parts of Jesus' mission. And it is clear from Jesus' ministry that he was addressing both spiritual and physical blindness, oppression, captivity and freedom. When he sent his followers out to teach the kingdom of God, he told them to do both physical and spiritual ministry – Luke 10:9: "Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’" Then he tells us to go out and do the same – Matthew 28:18-19: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." What he had commanded them was both physical and spiritual ministry, and that is surely what he still commands us to do today. So if we want to truly follow Jesus, we won't miss either aspect of the good news of the kingdom of God.

Jesus met people at their point of need. If their need was physical, he ministered to that need (healing, feeding the five thousand–even providing wine for a wedding) and that opened the way to speak about the Kingdom. If their needs were emotional, he dealt with those (deliverance, reassurance of God's provision etc). He taught on Kingdom lifestyle (Sermon on the Mount). And obviously, he dealt with people's spiritual needs by giving them the Gospel of the Kingdom.