Monday, July 23, 2007

Seminar 5 - John Hosier on Spiritual Warfare - Part 1 at TOAM 07!

There were a number of key seminars that were set apart from the Training Track sessions at Together on a Mission - Rob Rufus's seminar being one of them of course. John Hosier - the wonderful pastor/teacher at Church of Christ the King in Brighton spoke at two seminars on the subject of spiritual warfare. I have just listened to Part 1 of that and found it very insightful, practical and deeply theological. It will of course be more helpful for church leaders which is why I present the notes below in the hope that it proves of some encouragement maybe.

I am aware that Newfrontiers view of spiritual warfare differed slightly from that of Dr Ern Baxter's - having read Dave Devenish's "Demolishing Spiritual Strongholds". Clearly John Hosier takes the same line as Dave Devenish but didn't engage that view enough to totally persuade me yet. That is a comment by the way - the bulk of the seminar is still excellent.

John Hosier – “Spiritual Warfare and the Local Church” – Part 1 -Seminar TOAM 07

"I believe the most intense form of spiritual warfare is engaged when we are building the local church".

Two popular views regarding spiritual warfare. “To cleanse a town or a city” - “ … those that seek to engage in spiritual warfare in order to precede evangelism” – Peter Wagner (Territorial Spirits). That view tends to take people to high places in order to cleanse the city or the town. Also to hidden places to do the warfare to bind the devil. The first of those two is difficult to judge. The second can be judged by the success of the evangelism but may say more about the effectiveness in prayer rather than spiritual warfare itself.

(Matthew 12:16-18). “Gates of Hades will not overcome it”. Two truths emerge – one is that Jesus will build His church and the other is that there will be conflict as the church is built. Confusion can come in – even at the point of understanding this verse. Popular view is based on first part of the verse; “You are Peter and on this rock I will build”. Roman Catholic view looks at this. Protestant view reacts to that and says that the church is built on the kind of faith expressed by Peter – expressing Jesus as Christ. It may be simply an issue of chronology that may be the correct interpretation. Peter was the first one in to confess Jesus as Christ and the church was built from that point. But that debate overshadows what Jesus was saying about building the local church. Jesus speaks about the “Gates of Hell” or more accurately in the NIV – “The Gates of Hades”. The use of the word “Hades” is a metaphor for the forces of evil and destruction. It could appear as though the church will be attacked but not overcome.

The more accurate interpretation of that verse is that the church will advance and the powers of evil will give way!

“The Gates of Hades will not be strong against it”. If Jesus promised here to build the church then that is His passion and that should be our passion also. We also need to take this promise for our own local church. There is a promise of conflict and of victory so we must understand something of the nature of the conflict we are involved in. There is preliminary question – why are we involved in conflict at all? (Colossians 2:15) “Triumphing over them by the Cross” – but in practice it doesn’t always seem as though the powers and authorities are disarmed. We must understand that although Satan is defeated at the Cross he will not be destroyed till the end of the ages when Jesus returns. At that point; “The devil was thrown into the lake of sulphur”. Between the defeat and destruction of Satan – he is fighting very hard against us.

Sometimes it is suggested that the reason he still fights, is that perversely he still thinks he can win and have the victory. That isn’t a biblical position. (Revelation 12:12). “He is filled with fury because he knows his time is short”. That is why we have conflict because Satan knows he can’t win and with mad spitting fury he is against the church.

1. The conflict that arises with church planting.
2. The conflict that arises with established churches.

Satan uses different tactics for church plants and established churches so we need to examine both and see how we can win.

“Christian life is not like a battle – it is a battle” – Terry Virgo.

1. The conflict that arises with church planting.

In church planting we are in spiritual warfare – there will be conflict and battle and it is a real battle. We know the devil has schemes for a new church plant. These things won’t definitely happen in every case but these have been commonly observed. If we are convinced that Jesus will build His church and the church is God’s plan A then it is inevitable that Satan will want to kill off the local church if possible at source. Satan’s schemes with regards to church plants – largely seen within Newfrontiers church plants. Not everything true for every church plant but seen regularly enough to establish devil’s schemes.

A. Moving Difficulties.
In planting churches people will move. When people seek to move there are whole numbers of people that meet difficult and even irrational problems in moving. Some have even had to concede defeat and give up on the move. There are demonic schemes at work and very often the lead guy has a difficult time moving.

B. Illnesses.
Most people involved in church planting don’t get ill! But some do. Part of it is that you see it more easily in a church planting. In a larger church sickness gets absorbed into normal life. It is another thing to cope with in planting the church and it can sap moral and people get weary.

C. Sexual Immorality.
In Newfrontiers we haven’t lost too many leaders because of sexual immorality but when we have lost them, it is always in connection with a new church plant. The devil is very subtle and rarely exposes that sin immediately. There comes a crucial time when the immorality of that leader comes out. This has happened with enough frequency to realise that this is a demonic and devilish scheme. It amazes me how this kind of sin can get uncovered or discovered. This is a battle and if we are seeking to bring the mission of God to a new area then do not be surprised that Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion to see who he can devour and he wants to bring down leaders. The new plant will feel frail and vulnerable if a leader falls to sexual immorality.

D. Ungodly Ambition.
This comes in two forms – the first is direct and unpleasant but easy to deal with. Sometimes you will get someone joining it who sees it as an opportunity to use and flaunt their ministry. The kind of thing that happens is that they give indications that they are the prophetic voice for this church or they become critical of the initial leadership – also with the suggestion that they should be the leader. Very often it has to be publicly confronted and can be quite bloody but usually soon over. There is another approach – more subtle and harder to see. Someone joins intent on a position and it comes out as a rumble and a grumble. “Why aren’t I on that eldership team?”. “This is why I left my last church because I was not recognised?”. There is biblical encouragement to seek oversight. That is a good thing! It becomes ungodly when we seek to manipulate that position. “This is why I sold up and moved”. This can be a longer term difficulty and usually rumbles along under the surface and will make a number of people uncomfortable. Many may move on quite quickly.

In church plants you must watch out for personal agendas because it can be ungodly ambition and can become a source of conflict in a new plant.

E. Leadership Appointments.
Desire quickly to form a leadership team and move on to eldership as soon as possible. We believe in plurality of elders and we are looking for leadership. The devil is a subtle enemy and wants to bring down – he can disguise himself as an angel of light. In a new church plant you can have the best motivation for an eldership team but the pressure can be to move on too quickly and make disastrous appointments and decisions. The devil loves that because he has led you through a godly desire into mistake and error. Bible says “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands”. (Ephesians 6:4) “Stand firm therefore”. There are times when you have to stand against the pressure to rush appointments too quickly.

F. Transition.
This is less common but has arisen enough to indicate that we can be dealing here with a demonic scheme. There is a period of transition where you can speak about the church plant becoming an established church. The reality is that some leaders are brilliant pioneers with vision, huge amounts of energy and internal resources to get a church started. Those people may not have the gift to oversee a church long term. What is needed in situations of church planting is discernment about that issue. Sometimes you will have someone who is a brilliantly gifted pioneer but they actually need to move on and do that again. Warfare can be very intense if that discernment is lacking because what was initial success and gain can begin to run into the ground. Certainly there are leaders who have the grace to give their lives to one church and the world’s biggest churches have been planted and pastored their entire lives – Yongi Cho. But we need to be discerning as to whether the person who planted the church is a pioneer or whether they have the gifting to take the church on in the long haul.

G. Battle for the First Fruits.
The plant has to battle to get itself established and initial breakthroughs are very important and we can call this a battle for the first fruits. Here is a real example;

When Joel Virgo took on the leadership of our church 18 months ago – he felt convicted that there should be an appeal for salvation so every meeting we do make an appeal for people to come to Christ. We have hardly had a single Sunday when there hasn’t been a single response. Every single service someone has responded to that call for salvation. So because of this Joel was invited to speak at our Evangelical Leaders Fraternal in Brighton and he went, spoke and imparted faith. Another leader in Brighton went home and began making appeals and week after week there was no response. Would he give way or keep going? He decided he would battle on and four weeks ago on a Sunday morning he made an appeal for salvation and six people responded! There is a battle for the first fruits. You must battle things through to get that first breakthrough. The first convert or the first baptism or the first youth group. It’s not like a battle – it is a battle.

2. The Conflict that arises with Established Churches.

Our enemy has different plans for established churches. Obviously established churches cannot be snuffed out initially but Satan still wants to bring the established church down and he has schemes against us.

a. Irreconcilable Divisions.
The major scheme that Satan has against the church is to create irreconcible division. That is his major attack. Many church leaders have agreed that this is the case. Here is a real example from CCK that occurred 20 years ago – it is not a secret in any sense;

I went to CCK (then called Clarendon) 21 years ago and at that point the church had divided into congregations and I was given the leadership of one. There was a mixture of full time and non-full time elders. We were in 5 congregations and I hadn’t been here very long when Terry asked me to take on chairmanship of the elders. I felt we should look at the multiple congregation idea. I introduced this at a day retreat of the full time elders. We discussed this whole issue through and we became convinced that we bring the 5 congregations together and assemble as one large church. We then gathered together the non-full time elders and shared what God was saying.
The non-full time guys felt that we had jumped them and felt we weren’t making this decision in the right way. We apologised for this and said that hadn’t been our intention. It wasn’t easy and we had further meetings between ourselves and somehow every time we met the situation got worse rather than better. We spoke to the guys individually and it still didn’t get better. These guys who were non-full time elders were very godly men and were really seeking God’s will for the church. That was true of the full time elders also and a real desire to see God’s will done. It just kept getting worse. 3 of the non-full time elders felt it was right to put down their eldership and leave the church. This was a real crisis for us and there was an irreconcilable difference that had taken place. This feeling went on for some time and I began to reflect on this and wonder why this had happened. Surely the issue was simple to resolve?

Suddenly I thought that we were not ignorant of the devil’s schemes but we had forgotten. The devil had got on the back of this and had driven it. I decided that because this was so much in the public domain so decided to speak about it on spiritual warfare. We were victims of spiritual warfare and didn’t realise it. I didn’t think about the fact that this was being taped and some of our members put the tapes through the doors of those who had left us and that broke the issue! Two of the guys came back into CCK and serve in leadership to this day. But we were victims of the devils scheme in irreconcible division.

The issue causing the division is usually not much of an issue. Divide and rule is his plan and we must resist it!

b. An Evil Day.
(Ephesians 6:13). “When the day of evil comes”. This is a season when Satan lines up his big guns – points them at your church and fires at once. After Jesus baptism and Father’s approval Jesus was driven into the wilderness. “Full of the Holy Spirit”. For 40 days He was tempted by the devil! He had known awesome blessing and then suddenly He was in an evil day. Please note that at the end of the 40 days the Gospels say that Satan left Him for another time. The good news is that there is not always an evil day. But it does happen.

Dr Kriengsak was visiting us during Prayer and Fasting – from a multi-thousand number church. A brother who was not part of our number asked a question about whether there had been problems in his church. His answer; “Problems? No I don’t think we have had any at all”. A year later there was an evil day upon them. The police threatened them with imprisonment because of brainwashing the people.

You may be thinking our church has never had an evil day – cheer up! It is virtually guaranteed that you will get one. The book of Revelation is key (Rev 12:15-16) “The serpent spewed water like a torrent to overtake the woman”. You must trust me here. The serpent is Satan – no question. The woman here is a metaphor of the Church. We are reading here that the devil spewed water to sweep away the Church but the earth swallowed the river. That is speaking of an evil day. Satan spits against the Church! He spews out venom against the Church. But the good news is that in an evil day – you get help. You must understand that when you have an evil day you will get help.

c. Stagnation.
Stagnation can also be spiritual warfare even though there is no conflict. You can render a church ineffective through division or by putting it to sleep. We may be in as much spiritual warfare if nothing is happening as if there was major division. What to do when that happens – a lot of the answer is based on the ministries in Ephesians 4.

In a time of stagnation, the Ephesians 4 Ministries will be a major weapon of attack against stagnation. You may need to call in apostolic ministry to lay some foundation of grace. You may need prophetic ministry in the church to awaken vision again. In (Haggai 1:13); “The work stagnated” – enter the prophet Haggai. “I am with you declares the Lord … they came and began work on the house of the Lord their God”. The prophet came in and stirred a stagnant people and the work on the temple began.

You may need an evangelist to come in and model something with regard to the Alpha programme. You may need to call in an experienced teacher to thrill people with truth.

When nothing is happening – don’t let nothing happen. Fight! You need Ephesians 4 Ministry that will stir and rally the people.

Be Alert.
We need to be convinced that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Please do not think that spiritual warfare is some weird thing casting out demons from high places. The warfare is most intense planting churches. The battle rages! (1 Peter 5:8). “Be alert … your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion”.

Be Discerning
There can be a tendency among some to see demons under every bed. Every difficulty is a demonic attack. It may simply be life! However we can face enormous pressures and get cast down about them. (Ephesians 6:12) in a passage on spiritual warfare, Paul says; “Our struggle is against the powers of the dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm”. We forget that because the battle we are involved in does look like flesh and blood.

(Revelation 13:1) – Unfortunately the NIV splits the verse. The Scripture is infallible – NIV headings are not! They have inserted a heading and distorted the text by doing so. Take v1 as a whole. “I saw a dragon coming out of the sea … I saw a Beast coming out of the sea”. The Beast is the Antichrist and he is a man. The point is that behind the Antichrist (and the spirit of Antichrist always has been with us – I believe there will be an Antichrist at the end of history) is the Devil. Behind every Antichrist is the Dragon! Satan pulls the strings. You may see the face but the devil is behind that.

Are we under attack here? Is this an evil day? Discerning that is helpful in the battle because you know what you are up against.

Be Strong.
(Ephesians 6:10) “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”. That means declaring the promises of God. God has said He will build His church! The Gates of Hades will not be strong against it! (v14) “Stand firm then”. You have to stand firm. Attacks pass! Even evil days come to an end! The earth swallows up some of the venom of Satan – so stand firm. You will come through!

The opposite of faith is fear.

“Who can be against us?”. The reality is that every demonic force of hell is against us but God is for us. You sometimes simply have to stand firm. Don’t be weird and go up to high places and cast out demons. Stand firm. The evil day will be over.

Be Prayerful.
We would understand as Newfrontiers leaders – the importance of prayer. (Romans 10:1) – There is only one verse dealing with praying for salvation. Paul pleas that people pray for the advance of the Word of God.

Be Flexible.
However difficult life may be and whatever crisis you may face and whatever pressures are coming against you – there is always something to laugh about. Tomorrow: a theology of humour against spiritual warfare!

“Life to the full – when Jesus promised us life in all its fullness I think He really meant it. I want to introduce life in awesome technicolour … awesome highs and devastating lows. This is the real deal. This is the only crack at life I am only going to get … If you love deeply then you are going to get hurt badly … celebrate raucously because celebration is a gift from God. I love local church work – I love the people I do it with – the stakes of it – it’s heaven and hell – it is the highest stake gain in town – I love that” – Bill Hybels.

It isn’t like a battle – it is a battle but Jesus said that He would build His church and the Gates of Hades are not strong enough to resist it.

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