Deliverance ministry is causing havoc in African churches. A South African pastor sprayed an insecticide at his church members for spiritual deliverance. During a prayer for deliverance, a Zimbabwean prophet made his church members drink sewage water. Another South African pastor is using engine oil to detect demons.
What would you do if a woman who previously had five sexual relationships walks into your church? If your church is like 50% of the Christian churches in Africa, the woman will receive a prayer for deliverance.
Why receive a prayer for deliverance? Because sinners need spiritual deliverance. Therefore, your pastor would cast out the spirit of adultery and fornication oppressing the woman.
Churches that emphasize spiritual deliverance grow rapidly in Africa. Because people are lured to churches that confirm their past, predict their future, and validate their fears.
But is a deliverance ministry really biblical? What is the role of deliverance ministry in your local church?
Is spiritual deliverance or prayer of deliverance Biblical?
A deliverance ministry is a church activity where a person who’s troubled by demonic spirits is set free through cleansing by a spiritual authority. The demonic spirits make him susceptible to sin. Normally, the spiritual authority is a local pastor.
Common in Pentecostal churches, deliverance ministry is marked by intense prayer. And expressions such as, I command you, I declare, and I bind you thrown around like a Vedic hymn.
I once attended a spiritual deliverance service a couple of years ago. Then, deliverance ministry was a new phenomenon in Pentecostals. I heard a deliverance minister saying Christians could have a stronghold in their lives if they have unrepentant sin.
The deliverance minister ignored Jeremiah 31:29 and Ezekiel 18:2-3. He said demonic spirits from your family could enact stronghold in your life. Again he twisted Ephesians 6:12 and 1 Timothy 4:2. And he claimed these strongholds are formed by a spirit of poverty, a spirit of adultery or a spirit of uselessness.
Here’s the problem.
If a spirit of adultery is causing you to sin, why should God accept your confession and your plea for forgiveness? Doesn’t the Bible say, anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed? How then a new creation continue to be oppressed by demonic forces?
I believe, only those who are not yet in Christ needs a prayer of deliverance. And there is nothing more powerful than the Gospel to cast out evil spirits in an oppressed person’s life.
5 Marks of a Christ-Centered Deliverance Ministry
One of my favorite Bible passages is the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Many people assumed this meant the Samaritan woman was a prostitute, but the Bible is quite about that. The only thing we know was the woman who once had five husbands and was living with another man.
If you read the passage, you will notice it actually offers a good template of what a true deliverance ministry and true prophecy should look like. Yes, Christ cast out demons from the crippled, maimed and the sick, but he also warned that the demons might come back and cause more damage than previously.
1. Christ is present
The Samaritan woman got her deliverance and was transformed by the Gospel because she was in the presence of Christ. Sadly, most deliverance services focus on the presence of a presumed gifted church leader. It’s the person of Christ that delivers sinners from the power of darkness to the kingdom of light.
2. Has eternity in mind
The presence of Christ evokes eternity. Jesus reminded the Samaritan woman if she knew he was, she would have asked for the living water. But most deliverance ministries focus on the temporary things of this world neglecting that the world needs the living water.
3. Leads to confession and repentance
The Samaritan did not run to the city when Christ confirmed her past. She waited for the true deliverance. A true prayer of deliverance is a prayer of confession, repentance, and belief. And this is often in response to Christ’s goodness.
4. Confronts secular worldviews with the Gospel
A worldview is a framework you use to interpret, understand and interact with the world around you. Samaritans did not talk to Jews because of past events. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman he shattered her worldview and invited her to a Biblical, Christ-centered worldview. Sadly, deliverance ministries in Africa actually perpetuate the African traditional religion worldview.
5. Restores authentic worship
The goal of prophecy is to speak to people for their up-building and encouragement and consolation (1 Corinthians 14:3). As a result, true deliverance restores authentic worship. We don’t have a sin problem, but a worship problem (John 4:21-24).
Consider the woman caught in adultery:
- She came before Christ – Christ presence
- Jesus Christ continued writing on the ground – mindset to eternity
- Christ demanded those without sin to condemn her – confession and repentance
- The Lord chose not condemn her – confronted her worldviews
- He instructed her to sin no more – restored worship
In my upcoming book, Pew Theology: Redeeming the Gospel in Africa, I have a chapter devoted to this topic. How do you like the subtitle of the book?