Thinking Out Loud

March 5, 2018

Deliverance Ministry: Specialty Calling or a Work for all Believers?

Not the type of deliverance ministry we’re discussing today…

…okay, we’re getting warmer…

A few days ago, I was asked this question and decided to answer by email. Then, I figured it would make a good blog post at Christianity 201. Because I put a fair bit of work into it, I decided to share it here as well. This is a topic which, outside of Charismatic and Pentecostal environments, is not discussed among Evangelicals.

The issue is whether or not ‘the average Christian’ when in a situation of spiritual confrontation can move in the power of the Holy Spirit, or if they need to retreat and defer to ‘the experts’ in this area of ministry. An analogy to the movie Ghostbusters, while rather distracting, is not entirely out of place here. Who are you gonna call?

Before we begin, an important question to ask is, ‘Does the person seek healing and deliverance?’ If the person who needs Christ doesn’t particular want Christ’s help — and I’ve met people on both sides of this equation — then you’re possible going to proceed differently.

Another clarification needs to be made between deliverance ministry and spiritual warfare, something we looked at here in January, 2014:

The difference between deliverance and spiritual warfare is that deliverance is dealing with demonic bondages, and getting a person set free, whereas spiritual warfare is resisting, overcoming and defeating the enemy’s lies (in the form of deception, temptations and accusations) that he sends our way. Deliverance involves the breaking up of legal grounds, the tearing down of strongholds (offensive spiritual warfare), and the casting out of demons. Spiritual warfare on the other hand, is dealing with three key things the enemy sends at us: temptations, deception and accusations.

So we need to keep that distinction in mind as we proceed.

Deliverance is certainly similar to the supernatural gifts of the spirit in 1 Cor. 12, yet it is not one of them; of the nine listed, see especially these:

The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles… (12:9-10a)

This certainly gives the believer confidence that part of our ministry can include operating in the supernatural realm. Also, bringing relief to those in need was part of Christ’s mandate as shown in Luke 4:18 (AMP):

The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]

and then he tells us (John 14:12-13)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus sends out the 72 disciples and then we read in vs. 17:

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”

The tone of the verse suggests a bit of surprise on the part of these short-term missionaries, but also implies something which came naturally or organically because of their connection to Jesus. We get this sense two verses later in 19-20:

[Jesus:] “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

While the last half of the 16th chapter of Mark has been disputed because of manuscript corroboration, it is there we find a ‘spiritual power package’ of instructions including verse 17:

These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.

You have the authority. So why have we relegated deliverance ministry to being a the purview of a very select few?

It might be that this passage brings with it the potential for deliverance ministry failure:

Mark 9.17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

19a Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you?…

25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”…

28 Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”

29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.

The Pulpit Commentary elaborates:

Though all things are possible to faith, some works are more difficult of accomplishment than others. This kind can mean only this kind of evil spirit, or demons generally. But the latter interpretation is excluded by the fact that the apostles had already exercised successfully their power over devils without special prayer or fasting. The words point to a truth in the spiritual world, that there are different degrees in the Satanic hierarchy (comp. Matthew 12:45); some demons are more malignant than others, and have greater power over the souls of men. In the present case the possession was of long standing; it revolved a terrible bodily malady; it was of an intense and unusual character. The mere word of exorcism, or the name of Jesus, spoken with little spiritual faith, could net overcome the mighty enemy. The exorcist needed special preparation; he must inspire and augment his faith by prayer and self-discipline. Prayer invokes the aid of God, and puts one’s self unreservedly in his hands; fasting subdues the flesh, arouses the soul’s energies, brings into exercise the higher parts of man’s nature. Thus equipped, a man is open to receive power from on high, and can quell the assaults of the evil one. (emphasis added)

Elliott’s Commentary adds:

The disciples, we know, did not as yet fast (Matthew 9:14-15), and the facts imply that they had been weak and remiss in prayer. The words are noticeable as testifying to the real ground and motive for “fasting,” and to the gain for the higher life to be obtained, when it was accompanied by true prayer, by this act of conquest over the lower nature.

or perhaps this passage from Matthew is in the back of someone’s mind:

17.14b A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”

17 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.

19 Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”

20 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.

We often refer to the website, GotQuestions.org. Some non-Pentecostals or non-Charismatics downplay the need for this as a specialized ministry. Since you’ll find this thinking online in various places, here is a sample from their site:

…The Gospels and Acts relate that Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity yet do not discuss the method of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so. We are told to put on the whole armor of God…

…The Gospels and Acts relate that Jesus and the disciples cast out demons. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity yet do not discuss the method of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so…

…It is interesting that we have no record of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples on how to cast out demons…[and then the commentary goes on to list a rather significant number of ‘exceptions.’ Hmmm…]

Did we answer the question at the top of the page?

I think the issue here is not the office or title of the person rebuking the evil spirits, but rather the preparation of the person entering into such a ministry.

Of course, some situations are extremely short notice. We don’t know exactly when we might find ourselves seeing or being part of a direct demonic confrontation. I believe in those situations, a person who has heard God’s word on this subject, and is thereby aware of the powers that exist should resolve to act in whatever timely opportunity is available. (But I also believe God will give you some foreknowledge to be prepared to do so.)

In other parts of the world, I’m told that demonic activity is much more acute; much more visible. People in those situations don’t need to be told what they’re dealing with, they see its effects.

So the answer is both: It is a ministry that is the specialty of some pastors and Christian leaders, but it is also within the reach of any Christ-follower who has prepared themselves for the task.

Do you want to take this on?

It’s definitely worth remembering that the seventy-two were sent out in pairs. That might be a better way to apprentice in this type of ministry.


In any deliverance situation, there’s also the issue of providing ‘filling’ to someone whose ‘casting out’ of something has created a void or a whole. In Matthew we read the words of Jesus,

12.43 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45

There are some good resources online on this topic, be discerning as you search however, and recognize that there are differences of opinion on this issues from different theological traditions.


Scriptures today were all NLT (just because) except where indicated.

November 17, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Probably the most mixed-up link list ever posted here.  If this is your first time; please check out last week’s!   And though I don’t have a specific link for it, today is the 40th anniversary of the live recording of the Elton John album, 11-17-70, which, at the very least, gives us a nice graphic.  (Note to U.S. readers: note it’s actually 17-11-70, the right way to do it.  Smallest to largest, get it?)

  • Starting in a different place this week, we go back to October’s Catalyst conference, where Craig Groeshel spoke on the generational tension that can exist in some churches, both large and small.  Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance summarized this well, and also has similar thumbnails of the other main conference speakers.
  • Julie Clawson fuses the Eucharist with a different interpretation (or explanation) of Jesus feeding the 5,000. “We were asked to share whatever we had with us–gum, granola bars, soft drinks, Goldfish, Altoids. The table overflowed with abundance, which we served to each other.”  Check it out at One Hand Clapping.
  • This was also linked at Christianity 201 on the weekend, but should be seen by more people, even though it’s written primarily to pastors.   Skye Jethani on the Ten Commandments of Scripture Interpretation.
  • This is a longer one, but it’s a must read.   On the weekend iMonk ran a classic from the late Michael Spencer on the Archie Bunker mentality.  “Archie loved an argument the way most people love dessert…” “I’ve decided that Archie Bunker is the patron saint of Christians who can’t stop making their point…”   And this one, my favorite:

    “I meet Calvinists who have no control over their need to make all Biblical discussions turn into debates on predestination. There are young earth creationists who hunt down anything that smells like a less-than-literal view of Genesis one and label it evolution. Pentecostal/Charismatics have all varieties of little brothers of Saint Archie who can’t stand it that someone isn’t riding the latest wave of the Holy Spirit into last days revival. Seminary students who can’t understand why there is anyone refusing to read N.T. Wright, and hand-wringers staying up nights writing letters to people who do read N.T. Wright.”

    You can read it all here.

  • And while we’re in a mood for ranting, we couldn’t not share — the above piece notwithstanding — this piece where John Shore lets out his frustration over people who tell him what to think.  He calls it Church Authority Smurch Smashmority.
  • Matt Appling visits a touring art installation based on Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution in China and ends up considering this particular piece entitled The Execution of Christ.
  • Don’t know how, but my wife stumbled on an interesting thread of articles all having to do with an obscure brand of medical products we’d never heard of: 666 Cough Syrup and other 666 cold remedies.  In this link, a customer is on the phone with a customer service rep trying to get them to see the other side of this; “But I mean it’s not, like, ‘665’ or ‘667.’ It’s ‘666.’”
  • Okay, with a few exceptions, there’s not a lot of depth or substance to this week’s list but in case you’ve missed the fun people have been having for the past month at text-to-video site xtranormal.com, here’s one of the best:  How To Plant a Church.  And The New Music Minister.   And The New Youth Minister. (Don’t get confused that they’re all wearing the same shirt; this ain’t Veggie Tales.)
  • For a more serious take on church planting, check out Nancy Beach’s recent observations.
  • Our cartoons this week are from the UK: Jon Birch’s popular The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus.   It’s been so long, we should explain that the acronym stands for the British term, Anti Social Behavior Order.   ASBO is always thought-provoking and often controversial.   Click the images to link.

June 8, 2010

The Westboro Children: Casualties in the Crusade of Hate

Much has been written about Fred Phelps, the man whose interpretation of scripture — the gospel of hate — represents about 0.000000001% of Christians, but somehow manages to garner an inordinate percentage of media publicity.

But what of the children that we see in the images of the Westboro protesters?   What absolutely warped upbringing are these kids experiencing?

ABC News decided to dig a little deeper and ended up at the home of Steve and Luci Drain and their three children.   After watching the nearly nine-minute segment, it was Lauren Drain who captured my interest; their estranged daughter, now in her mid 20s, who was voted out of the family:

  • “They sing lullabies about people going to hell,” she told Chris Cuomo in an exclusive interview.
  • “I saw some hypocrisy, and I mentioned them and they hated it,” she said. “You’re not supposed to question anything.”
  • Eventually, she said, when she was 21 the members voted her out of the church and out of her home, including her own parents… and the same night she was voted out she said her family sent her to stay at a hotel and cut off all communication.
  • A week later, Lauren Drain returned home to pick up her belongings and said she found that her youngest sister Faith already had been taught to hate her…”I raised her from the time she was born. I used to watch her every day. And a week later, she is happy I’m gone.”
  • As for the daughter they have lost, Steve and Luci Drain said they don’t miss her and don’t think they would ever allow her back.  “Why would I miss her?” Steve Drain asked.
  • Lauren Drain said she wishes she could speak to her younger brother and sisters, to tell them she loves them and that the hate they spread is not the true message of God.  “I miss them and I love them and I really care about them, and God doesn’t hate everyone. God has mercy on people, God forgives people,” Lauren Drain said she’d tell her siblings.

While much of the story focuses on her younger siblings, it is Lauren who gives the piece perspective.  Unlike Nate Phelps, about whom a lengthy post on this blog was published twice in 2009,  who has walked away from Christianity entirely, Lauren seems to have kept some core beliefs about God intact, or has worked to reconstruct belief, seperating truth from lies.

As I watched the parents totally “write off” their eldest daughter, I wondered how such people read the parable of the prodigal son; how do they reconcile the love that the boy’s father lavishes on him, even after the son rejected everything and squandered his father’s money?

I suspect that passage is never studied at Westboro.   Ditto the woman at the well in John 4, or the woman caught in sin in John 8.

You can read the ABC News report,  go directly to watch the video, or catch both, as I did yesterday at the N.I.F.T.Y. Christian blog.  (On the video, be sure not to miss the one child being hit by a car.  The authorities should remove these kids — the children are being put at adverse risk — and they should do it soon!)

And say a prayer tonight for Lauren, as she attempts to live a new life.

Lauren, if you’re somehow reading this, be strong in the Lord.

June 4, 2010

When Child Discipline Goes Too Far

OROVILLE [California]— A Paradise couple accused of killing their 7-year-old adopted daughter waived their preliminary hearing this week and will proceed to trial.

Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz each face two life terms in prison on charges of murder, torture and child abuse for the Feb. 6 death of Lydia Schatz, and severely beating her 11-year-old sister, which landed her in the hospital.

Both girls reportedly had whip-like marks, allegedly from being beaten for hours with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line.

The girls were both adopted from an African orphanage about three years ago, along with an infant girl. They joined the Schatz family, which included six biological children.

According to authorities, the Schatzes followed child training and disciplinary methods espoused by Michael and Debi Pearl. Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz both retained attorneys and pleaded not guilty to all charges in March.

They will be back in court June 24 for further arraignment and the setting of their trial date.

Both defendants are being held in the Butte County Jail on bail of $2 million each.

I wouldn’t normally have interest in this news story, but for the fact that just a few weeks ago, as a bookseller, I took an order for four different titles authored by Debi Pearl or Michael and Debi Pearl.    When some random web surfing took me to their site, I got concerned and did a Google news search and Google blogs search.

So what caused this child’s death?  Going back in the same news source, The Chico [CA] Enterprise-Record, we find more backstory two days earlier.

Seven-year-old adopted daughter Lydia died of blunt force trauma in February. According to authorities, she was beaten for several hours with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line as her parents took turns holding her down and using the instrument. The blows reportedly cause Rhabdomyolysis, which is a breakdown of muscle tissue which fatally damaged her vital organs. The 11-year-old was allegedly beaten in a similar manner the previous night.

According to Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, the parents appeared to be following the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl, founders of a controversial fundamentalist religious group, No Greater Joy Ministries.

They also wrote a controversial parenting book To Train Up a Child. In their literature, the Pearls encourage parents to use a quarter-inch plumbing supply line (or other items like rulers, paddles or tree branches) as a “rod” to “train up” their children. Though they tell parents not to injure their children, they also encourage constant “switching” or “licks” for not only disobedience but also for things like spilling nuts or being foolish. Additional “licks” are recommended when the child cries out.

According to local authorities, Lydia’s “biblical chastisement” leading to her death may have been for mispronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson…

Think about it.   A girl from Liberia not getting the pronunciation of a word correctly.   The punishment fit the crime?

I am astounded this story, from the last week in May, did not breakout nationally.

Do a regular Google search, and you find people online gushing about how wonderful and helpful the book, To Train Up a Child has been.   But look further and you find a history of stories like the one above.   Here’s a web post from 2006.   The writer’s post includes many other links — I haven’t checked each one — but I’m going to re-post it with all of them:

You may (or may not) have seen the call to boycott Homeschool Blogger/The Old Schoolhouse because of their ongoing, outspoken support for Michael and Debi Pearl’s materials, specifically their extra-biblical parenting teachings. This attention is a result of a little boy who died at the hands of his mother. The mother had sought guidance from the Pearls’ materials.

For quick reference, here are some articles that may illustrate the grave concerns people have about what Michael and Debi Pearl teach.

Here at TulipGirl:
On the Pearls and Parenting
Pearls Po-Russki
Biblical Relationships or Behaviourism
Children, Good and Grown
Offsite:
Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us
The Pearls: The Basics, On Original Sin
To Train Up A Child Review
Avoiding Millstones

That blog post was triggered by this story (its first link) which describes the death of a 4-year old “several years” before the above 2006 post.   This has been going on for a long time.

I know this post is getting long here, so I’ll hold back on the dozens and dozens of other bloggers who have expressed concern, and want to alert their readers to awareness of this particular couple and their books.  (I enjoy online research, and wish I had another hour to give to this because I know there are more stories lurking out there.)  I limited my search to older posts and found a somewhat hyperbolic sample from the appropriately named blog, Homemade Fireworks:

To Train Up A Child is ironic because it is a book on how to raise children written by people who probably shouldnt be allowed to live in a country that has children in it. In that respect, this book is a lot like that 300-pound fat guy at your gym with the tube socks and sweatband who tries to give you tips on how to do your crunches.

To Train Up A Child was written by Michael and Debi Pearl. The book’s forward tells us they have 6 children, but fails to mention whether any of them have lived past the age of three. Since this book has no less than three chapters with the word “rod” in the title, plus one with the word “whip,” I’m going to guess “none.”

But I really think this blogger, Jack at New Covenant Living,  raises a greater issue, and as I tried to cut and paste some of it for quotation, couldn’t find anything to leave out:

Regarding the writing and speaking ministries of Mike & Debi Pearl, whose advice about beating children with quarter-inch plumber’s tubing have been connected with the recent beating death of 7-year-old Lydia Schatz: What qualifies these people to be regarded as teaching authorities on anything, within the Body of Christ?

As a pastor, this tragedy touches on an area that I feel is almost never addressed: formal ministry qualifications. We American Christians disdain such concerns.

But the Bible doesn’t support our disdain. Deacons are supposed to be examined prior to being recognized. We’re warned not to lay hands on anyone suddenly, and thereby share in culpability for their ministry sins committed later. Elders are supposed to be proven, then ordained by the laying-on of hands, as Timothy was. The NT teaches that there is a process through which one must pass before you should be recognized. And if you fail the process, then you should not be recognized, as Paul says about any prophets who disregarded his apostolic authority (1 Corinthians 14:38).

But in American evangelicalism, any Tom, Dick, or Harry with access to a computer or Xulon Press can declare himself a teacher with authority, and build a following, regardless of how under-qualified he is. Men launch parachurch foundations, with politically incestuous boards comprised of family members and best buddies. Women start traveling around, putting on seminars without ever having been tested as to their soundness in the faith. In my opinion, a Christian woman speaker ought to meet certain moral criteria, and be required to pass some sort of basic theological examination, no less than a pastor.

We American Christians need to ask, when we read a new book or website, “Who is this person? Where does he come from? Where did she go to school? Have they ever been examined, commissioned, or ordained? To whom is he or she accountable? What are his or her qualifications to teach or preach the Word of God to anyone?” But we never ask those questions, do we? Why? Because we’re ignorant of the New Testament’s teachings about church, pastoral authority, and leadership qualifications. We’re not interested in that subject. It’s boring. Who cares about church government? Not us. Or we ignore these rules, and claim to be directly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because then no one (supposedly) has the right to question what we do, or how we do it.


Update: The Blog, Bene Diction Blogs On picks up the story of Michael and Debi Pearl and No Greater Joy ministries, with a few additions.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.