In my country, Zimbabwe, churches sometimes have deliverance services. In these services, large amounts of time is devoted to casting out demons. But, in my experience, service after service the same people come forward to be delivered. In fact, these people will often be delivered multiple times over a series of services, by the same preacher. As a result hours are spent on conversations between the preacher and demons. As these are going on, the crowds shout ecstatically. There are loud screams and shrill celebrations. Why? Because the demons unveil all sorts of information to those listening.
Pastors should rather preach and teach than major in casting out demons.
In this article I want to examine this practice. Because I pastor in a rural setting, my experience is limited and therefore so too is this article. However, deliverance services and ministries are everywhere. My contention in this article is that pastors should rather preach and teach than major in casting out demons.
Jesus Had Brief Conversations with Demons
Jesus never allowed demons to lecture the crowds, even though their theology isn’t bad.
Our Lord didn’t spend much time interviewing demons. They didn’t have long conversations. Thus we need to enquire why this is happening today. Why is it so prevalent in our churches? Furthermore, when demons attempted to reveal information about Jesus’ identity, he ordered them to be silent (Mark 1:25). Though Jesus could have permitted demons and evil spirits to speak, he didn’t. And he most certainly never allowed them to lecture his disciples or crowds, even though their theology isn’t that bad (Mark 1:24; James 2:19). Whatever demons and spirits knew—or appeared to know—Jesus wasn’t interested. So why are we?
In rural settings there are various obvious irruptions of the spiritual world. The demonic is often explicit. A good rural pastor won’t deny this. He doesn’t ignore the daily background and interference of village or ancestral spirits. He is aware of the work of spirit mediums. But those ministering in the village and rural settings must learn from Christ in serving their people. By this I mean that spirits and demons cannot be trusted. This would explain Jesus’ intolerance towards them. Yes, we cannot but cast out demons when we encounter them. But we needn’t interview them in front of our churches.
Beware Spectacles and Declare Christ
Casting out demons and conversing with spirits can appear impressive. This explains why a small industry has grown around it. But it isn’t the most amazing thing a rural (or any other) pastor can do. No. Extracting information and personal histories from demons isn’t the main event. For the faithful minister, Christ is and must always remain the spectacle. This presents both believers and pastors with a serious challenge. Both must resist delighting in something other than God. Therefore even as we cast out demons we must declare the greater wonders of the gospel, the person and work of Jesus. We find this in the scriptures, not in onstage fireworks.
The most remarkable words we’ll hear at any service are God’s, not some spirit’s.
The most remarkable words we’ll hear at any service are God’s, not some spirit’s. So believers are to be amazed by authoritative teaching and preaching. We meet to hear from God, to learn about Jesus. So we should be very wary if our services centre on long conversations with spirits and wrestling with the demonic. It’s striking that in the section of Mark’s Gospel cited above, immediately after Jesus cast out a demon we’re told that the crowds were amazed by his teaching and authority (Mark 1:27). Whatever God accomplishes through us, even if he gives us power to cast out demons, the church must never lose sight of who they worship.
The Gospel Achieves Deliverance
In addition to the above point, it is by the power of the gospel and the presence of the Holy Spirit that people are ultimately protected from evil spirits. True believers are free from the fear of possession. They needn’t be frightened of demons. To get them to this point, preachers must proclaim Christ. We preach Christ authoritatively, so as to permanently deliver people from demons and evil spirits. For the Holy Spirit abides in every believer. Therefore the more time spent teaching and preaching rather than casting out demons and spirits, the safer congregations will be.
We preach Christ authoritatively, so as to permanently deliver people from demons and evil spirits.
This means that apart from faithfully preaching Christ, we should be concerned for those in our communities or congregations who repeatedly cry out because of demons. Because such behaviour indicates an absence of saving faith and the Holy Spirit. The solution isn’t more deliverance services. The solution is the message about God’s Son. I would go as far as suggesting that the preacher who is continually casting out demons is probably not consistently preaching the gospel that saves. By spending all our time teaching about the spiritual world or interviewing spirits we are actually robbing our people of the confidence that comes with knowing Christ.
It is a privilege to teach and preach to God’s people. Ministry is a high calling. Leading God’s people should be a real joy. However, we must resist turning it into a show, in which we’re the main character. Yes, your context might involve peculiar expressions of the spiritual world. But that doesn’t mean you should make deliverance the main event. Declaring Christ is.