Exorcism. What does the Bible say? How should we understand it today?
Exorcism & Deliverance Ministry in Africa
Exorcism, or the ministry of deliverance as it’s commonly known in Africa, has become one of the major defining aspects of an African Christianity. In fact, most charismatic churches will trace their rapid growth and influence from an overemphasis of the exorcism ministry or deliverance ministry.
The ministry of deliverance has become one of the major defining aspects of an African Christianity.
Churches today are probably talking more about Satan, demons, evil spirits and spiritual powers, more than anything else in scripture.
Familiar Phrases for African Christians
You will hear phrases like spiritual warfare. Like prayer altars, like breaking bondages, like restoring your destiny; reclaiming your heritage. You will hear of prayer warriors, of people demolishing strongholds and binding the strong man. And you will hear of territorial spirits and spiritual mapping and power encounters.
What do all these tell us? That there is an awareness of the spirit world and a number of demonic influences and powers that need to be dealt with. And the Church has certainly put a strong emphasis in that area.
What Is Exorcism or Deliverance?
So when we think about exorcism or deliverance, what are we really talking about?
Well, in short, we are talking about the practice of casting out a demon from a person, or a thing, that is believed to be possessed.
We are talking about the practice of casting out a demon from a person, or a thing, that is believed to be possessed.
Most of you who are familiar with such kinds of prayers for deliverance, probably have an idea of what is done in such deliverance sessions. That it involves lots of prayers for the person who is believed to be possessed by an evil spirit or a demon. Sometimes the people praying will even use some things like anointing oil, or anointed water. They sprinkle it on the person who is possessed.
The Practice of Interviewing The Demon
In most cases you will find a person praying, interviewing the demon. Asking it where it is coming from, why it is inhabiting the body of this person, what it hopes to do with the person, where it is going after that. And in most cases, they end up praying that they should be cast into the bottomless pit or into outer darkness.
Interestingly in Uganda we even have a pastor who has been nicknamed ‘Abizaayo’. Which means that he can send them back to whoever sent them.
So, the process of delivering a person from powers that are believed to be possessing the faculties or thinking abilities of an individual, and through prayer are cast out. This has become a very common practice in many churches in Africa. Especially in charismatic churches.
How Does Exorcism Work?
In most cases, the person praying claims special revelation as to the nature of what kind of demons or spirits these are. And they will pray using the authority and the power of Christ to chase these demons out.
Many Christians in Africa today believe that they are possessed.
Two Extreme Responses to Exorcism Today
Now, in a ministry like this, there are at least two extremes that we need to be aware of.
Denial: “There Are No Demons”
One extreme is that you will find people who totally deny the existence and influence of the demonic realm or the spirit world. Churches in the West, most especially, will try to believe that there are no demons or spirits at all. And therefore they will disregard their influence and power.
Overemphasis: “There Is A Demon Behind Everything”
The church in Africa tends to take the other extreme, where everything becomes a demon. To the extent that you are driving and the engine of the car dies down and what’s the conclusion? There is a demon behind it.
A girl who can’t get married? There is a demon behind her. A young man who can’t easily get a job? It means there is a demon that is hindering his progress.
The Scriptures Bring Our Opinions in Check
We need to be aware of all those extremes. And especially ask ourselves “What does the Bible really say in all this? Is there such a thing as the demonic world that the Church needs to contend with today? Or, could it be that there is an exaggeration of the demonic realm and its activities that needs to be brought in check by the scriptures?”
How can the church respond to something like this? Well there are a number of things I could suggest.
How Should The Church Respond to Exorcism?
Number one, is that African Christians need to be reminded of God’s sovereign control over satanic forces and demons. Because then they can rest, or find security, in God’s power – rather than living in the fear of what Satan is doing.
African Christians need to be reminded of God’s sovereign control over satanic forces and demons.
Number two. African Christians need to be told the Bible and especially what the Bible says about Satan and demons and the hoard of spirits that characterise the spiritual realm.
But this is not to say that they should be experts on demonology or spiritism. But having an idea of how Satan operates, and especially being reminded of how Christ has triumphed over Satan and his powers, will go a long way in helping believers to be grounded in their faith and in the truth.
Know The Truth of Scripture
Pastors, who are gatemen or watchmen of their congregations, need to be taught not just to become good disciples, but also to know how to disciple their members in the truth of scripture. Then they will not be led astray by opportunists who may want to claim that they have demons, when actually they intend to take advantage of them in so many ways.
The gospel really is the final and climactic antidote to any spiritism or demonic encounter.
And of course, Christians must have a firm grasp of the gospel.
The gospel really is the final and climactic antidote to any spiritism or demonic encounter. If you know the gospel, and you have been set free by Jesus through the gospel, then you don’t need exorcism or the ministry of deliverance.
Because Jesus doesn’t just save you from sin, he delivers you even from demonic and spirit bondages.