ON Congregational Development and Demonic Paralysis

Any publication citing the demonic tends to be received with varying levels of reservation.  That’s if it’s read at all!  So as to not mince words, this is an exhortation to all of our congregations to come to terms with the inevitable reality of the ever-present darkness. 

Churches who authentically claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior must stop ignoring the unquestionable influence & manipulation of satanic forces within their respective faith communities.  Principalities and powers seek to do nothing short of destroying the people of God and annihilate the abundant life, joy and hope guaranteed by God to all those He calls His own through His Son, Jesus. 

I am convinced that there is something dreadfully wrong with the Church in America.  This is true across denomination lines.  Regardless of traditions and theologies, our congregations need to be truly excited about proclaiming the message of the Gospel; yet, there is social indifference, an individual/consumerist mindset and overall spiritual ennui.      

An unquestionable indolence has crept into our churches causing communities to whither, passion for being about our Father’s business to extinguish and proclamation of the Word diluted into safe, unsalted and so-called “practical” lessons for living rather than invigorating and deep exhortations for developing saints’ perseverance for long-suffering.     

The third parable of the Shepherd of Hermas reads:

“The present world epoch is wintertime for the righteous.  Just as it is winter all the trees are alike and, once they have shed their leaves, it is not easy to tell which trees are dead and which are still alive; in the same way in this world-age, it will not be easy to tell the righteous from the evildoers.  They all look alike.  Those budding trees are the righteous that shall live in the future world-age.  The future age will be summertime for the righteous; but certainly for the evildoers it will be winter.  Just as in summer the fruits of each individual tree appear, and one can tell to which species it belongs, in the same way the fruits of the righteous will appear.  They will all be visible when they blossom and ripen in the world to come. . .”[1]  

In our present world, it is genuinely difficult to distinguish those claiming to be followers of Jesus from those who are not.  There is no difference among those who claim to have “died to self”, for the fact remains that most members of the Church, regardless of tradition, are as caught up in the superficial and carnal day-to-day rat race as every non-believer is.   From the way we dress, to the way we function as a family, to the way we pursue ambition, to how we live all around . . . distinctions between the sheep and the goats are truly hard to find. 

Postmodern culture has invaded every school and every family living room through media, curriculum and all manner of programming.  Relativism, skepticism and good, old-fashion doubt, plague the Church in the America which has – for the most part – turned its back on the supernatural dimensions of our faith, embracing science as the true measure of our beliefs… and ultimately of our faith. 

We have also lost our ability to persevere in wintertime.  Despite our reading of Scripture, we have lost our sense of childlike faith, preserving conviction and long-term commitment to a long obedience in the same direction in, through and for Christ Jesus.  The message of the Kingdom of God, as presented by the Anabaptist tradition - is refreshing and for many, unlike anything they’ve ever been exposed to before.  And yet, how will they be ready to become co-workers in the fields – engaging in the leitourgia[2] of the Church, if we who are in the body are exhausted, disillusioned or confused?      

I intentionally chose exhaustion to express the fatigue of the body, of the physical.  Disillusionment to refer to the emotional crisis many may be undergoing and confusion to the spiritual crisis which a substantial number of our brothers and sisters may be struggling with.

Why would Satan take advantage of exhaustion?  It seems perhaps an elementary question to ask, but too often we theologize basics away into oblivion and loose the kernels of truth along the way.   

Exhaustion makes you lose your sense of obligation, responsibility and obedience.  Imagine this attitude as the “standard” for a life in Christ.  Seems completely incompatible, but it may be the only life you know of the life of the church you are covenanted to.  You rage against the apathy, but to no avail.  Things continue to be – just as they are. 

As exhaustion sets in, we begin to lose ground and our solid footing begins to lose any sense of its integrity and security.  The solid ground is transformed into shifting sands underneath us.  Jesus warned us that the cares and troubles of this life can suffocate us and cause to lose heart, i.e. we become disillusioned.  When we are set spiritually adrift, confusion sets in.  Be advised, confusion is the rudimentary mental condition Satan wants to unleash in each of our hearts.  It is his mission to cause every single believer to drown in confusion and to be at the mercy of its offspring: fear, apathy and doubt.        

When apathy sets in, congregations grow complacent.  The radical Christian life & true disciple-making becomes an impossible aspiration . . .  tragically Christianity becomes Churchianity.  It becomes racially & ethnically driven, worldly and diluted of the supernatural.  As Satan causes us to grow preoccupied with the cares of this world, we become less willing to give of our time, talent and treasure, as we lose faith in the promises that God will, in fact, provide for our every need and for every occasion.  As churches metamorphose into insecure and insular communities, they are unable to take ownership of said promises and thereby begin to operate on their own devices.  This is due to what is genuinely within the collective and individual hearts of the body - fear. 

Fear grabs the congregation in a death grip, leaving the people gasping for air and unable to fend off the attack.  In this brutal state of spiritual paralysis, the inability to see beyond the present situation is virtually impossible.  Myopic and dominated, churches grow evermore ineffective, irrelevant and unfaithful.

How do we ever get out of this spiritual “near-death” experience? 

Our leaders must become prophets.  They must reclaim the priestly-prophetic tradition, rooted in Scripture and take on the God-ordained responsibility of shepherding & feeding His flocks – all under His ever-watchful eye.  We may have lost sight of this.  We may have grown so “used to church”, that we have lost our way and no longer operate as Christians beholding the fear of God. 

No sooner do we give up on the first step toward divine wisdom that Satan is there ready to confuse us and set us adrift toward wastelands of empty promises and dreadful living. 

There is no other way.  This issue is not going to be addressed through any denominational conference or by some iconoclastic mandate from any diocesan office.  Districts, conventions or archdioceses can only set the example by embodying the passion of the prophets, the intolerance of the saints before evil and a childlike trust in the supernatural personhood & economy of God.  Anything short of this is a recipe for the “same-old-thing”, dry bones and much ado about nothing. 

The vehicle through which the prophetic voice is reintroduced into our churches is by a heartfelt call to prayer and fasting.  Here lies the unquestionable crux of the problem… we are not praying people.  Satan knows this all too well.  With the exception of a small, faithful number of believers, we no longer believe that prayer has the supernatural power promised to us – and guaranteed in the name of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we feel the need to lean on our own understanding & to trust ourselves and our “know-how”.  No wonder the darkness is all around us, the conditions are prime and perfect for satanic mold to grow all around our hearts and minds, contaminating the Body of Christ.  We grow ill and lose our ability to run the race and remain healthy – spiritually, emotionally and physically. 

I beg anyone who reads this essay to challenge your community with the following proposal:

(1)  Call a fast and a time for prayer immediately.

(2)  Pastors, take your call as prophetic and promise the Lord God and your congregations to proclaim the Good News with the passion, authority and freshness the Word of God demands and deserves. 

(3)  Trust God and live as a community of Christ followers in the End Times … Here’s what I mean, regardless of when Christ returns, we should live as what we are . . . we are the Church in a post-Nativity, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost and Seven Letters world.  As believers we have no excuse to claim ignorance or to live as passive, unengaged bystanders.  If we chose to do so, we also chose to forfeit the inheritance He so desperately wants to give to us.    

Our cities, towns and municipalities need churches filled with brutally honest Jesus followers who are not afraid of calling themselves broken, recovering sinners.  We arethese sinners and we are the saints Scripture claims us to be as long as we are not ashamed of our spiritual DNA and remain faithful to the Master who has healed us.  We must endure the hardships that come our way with gladness and singleness of heart, faithfully sharing a testimony that is contrary to how entire generations have been taught as a prostituted, twisted new version of the so-called American Dream.  So many Americans claim prosperity to be the quantifiable, tangible proof of faithfulness to God. 
Satan seeks the “me”-centered, the disillusioned and the superficial.  He seeks to compel pride, simulate want and suppress the fear of God.  It is precisely for this reason that we cannot afford to fall prey to the snares, trials and tribulations of this world when we know we are more than conquerors.  I am certain that when we seek greater intimacy with the Lord, we will suffer relentless attacks and we will have to endure hardships because of Him whom we claim to be Lord over all.  This was proclaimed; we were put on notice and warned to count the costs. 

Now it is time to pray with contrite hearts and act with unrestrained faith. 

It is my prayer that you do. 

[1] Arnold, Eberhard.  The Early Christians: After the Death of the Apostles.  Plough Publishing House: RiftonNew York.  1970: 286-287. 
  1. [2] Leitourgia – defined as: a public office which a citizen undertakes to administer at his own expense
  2. any service
    1. of military service
    2. of the service of workmen
    3. of that done to nature in the cohabitation of man and wife
  3. biblical usage
    1. a service or ministry of the priests relative to the prayers and sacrifices offered to God
    2. a gift or benefaction for the relief of the needy


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